Monday, June 27, 2005

noel's faking 19

By the time 17-year-old Alex is in her senior year of high school, she is in danger of not graduating, something that no one could have foreseen just a couple years ago. Her father is gone, her best friend M. dabbles in drugs, and Alex wonders why she should care about anything. It’s not like she’s not smart enough, or pretty enough, or popular enough. Every weekend, M. and Alex head down to L.A. in order to party at all the hip clubs, where they pretend to be 19 in order to fit in. It’s more about forgetting than fitting in, though, and the initial fun soon wears off for Alex when she realizes that she can’t escape who she is. She must take a step back and reevaluate her friendship with M. as well as figure out what she wants to do after high school; after all, clothes, music, and hanging out – her top three “what I’m good at” choices – aren’t going to provide her with a real future. Writing, the one thing that she’s exceptionally good at, has always been her outlet and escape, but is it enough for her to start her future? Does she have the power to control her own life? Noel’s debut novel is realistic and convincing. Alex and M. are fresh and endearing; Noel gives us two girls who are anything but superficial. First person narration and situations dealing with sex, drugs, and alcohol make this a compelling look at one teenager’s broken life and how she fixes it. Readers will relate to both girls and their lives.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

martinez's gil's all fright diner

Two friends – Earl (as in the Earl of Vampires) and Duke (as in the Duke of Werewolves) – are driving along one evening when their truck runs out of gas. They wind up at an all-night diner in Rockwood, a small desert town, which has a bit of a zombie problem. The pair help Loretta, the diner’s owner/cook, fend off the zombies that are drawn to her diner. Impressed, Loretta asks the two to stay on and help her take care of some other supernatural problems going on in the town and to learn who is raising the ghouls. Duke and Earl discover that Tammy (also known as Mistress Lilith, Queen of the Night) and her loyal but dumb boyfriend, Chad, are plotting to end the world in order to resurrect the old gods. Similar in style and humor to Douglas Adams, Joe R. Lansdale, and “Shaun of the Dead,” this comic horror-fantasy novel is packed with warped humor and action. The characters are likeable, three-dimensional, and quirky. The story is fast, interesting, and unpredictable. Martinez carves out a nice little bit of entertainment with surprising depth.

wise's bitter road to dachau

Christian Reger was one of the founding members of the Confessing Church, a church that protested against Adolf Hitler and National Socialism. He was imprisoned three times before being sentenced to the Dachau concentration camp, where he was forced to live in the Pastor’s Barracks with hundreds of other men of the cloth. There, all boundaries are erased amongst the different religious sects as each man struggles to live his faith and trust in God. It’s been estimated that at least 10 percent of the inmates at Dachau were clergy. Although a fictional account of Reger’s imprisonment, the novel reads much like a biography; each chapter recounts one year of his imprisonment. Reger, as a Christian, not only survived the Nazis’ dehumanization tactics, but he also had to accept that his imprisonment was God’s will. His struggle to endure under such harsh conditions forces readers to ask themselves the same tough questions about God, suffering, and life itself. The epilogue fills in the gaps that time has given us in what we know and don’t know about the concentration camps. Wise’s account of Reger’s imprisonment would make an excellent addition to classrooms wishing to expand their knowledge of the Holocaust. The book can be read as a standalone novel or excerpted chapters; either way, students will gain a better understanding of the horrors that awaited any enemy of the Nazi party.

wilson's big hair and flying cows

Roberta Byrd – better known as Bertie – drives a tow truck for her father’s auto shop in the small town of Sweet Meadow, Georgia. All Bertie wants is to live a normal life, to find the man of her dreams, settle down, and escape the wrath of the Garden Club members of her church. That’s no easy thing to accomplish when the residents in your town view your wrecker service as a taxi service and will do anything to get a ride. It’s not easy when an airplane rolls over your hand, breaking it, and your brother moves in with you while he’s estranged from his wife. And it’s definitely not easy when the owner and previous resident of her house, elderly Pete Forney, constantly sneaks out of the nursing home to visit. If she’s lucky, he’s in his pajamas; if she’s not, he’s wearing nothing more than his birthday suit. After an accident with a mattress makes the national news, Bertie begins receiving threatening letters full of wacky tips from her stalker, “Jack.” Readers will laugh as Bertie heads downtown to file for a permit to park her wrecker at her house, only to discover that the official notices forbidding her to park her wrecker in her driveway were signed by dead man. Although Wilson’s debut novel can sometimes seem over the top with the nonstop craziness, it’s still a wonderful read. Bertie is a true Southern woman, able to survive at any cost, and to do it with style. Readers will relate to Bertie as she muddles through life and ultimately finds that commitment, love, support, and trust are closer than she thought.