Monday, July 22, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/22/13

I am excited to join the conversation at #IMWAYR!  Thank you to SheilaJen and Kellee for inspiring and hosting this meme.

This week I was all over the map in terms of intended audience for my reading.  Picture books, a middle grade title, YA and what I refer to as a "non-kid-lit" title (I use "non-kid-lit" because "adult literature" sounds like pornography if read outside of the context of librarianship!).  My favorite of the week was Tom McNeal's Far Far Away.

So, going from youngest readers to oldest readers, here they are:

Nugget and Fang by Tammi Sauer is a funny and sweet tale of friendship between a minnow and a shark.  They are great friends until Nugget, the minnow, goes to school and learns that minnows should be afraid of sharks.  Striking illustrations, humor and the idea that every friendship is unique make this a winner.  I read it aloud this past week at both a library summer reading program and to my six year old niece and it got rave reviews all around!

Cooper and Packrat: Mystery on Pine Lake by Tamra Wight is an “eco adventure” set at a camp in Maine.  Cooper is stuck working at his family’s camp and is disappointed that his parents don’t seem to have much time for him once the season gets into full swing.  When he discovers that someone has dammed up the lake, destroying a loon’s nest, he begins to investigate, with the help of his new friend Packrat.  This is a mystery in the gentlest sense of the word and the family and friendship aspects are stronger than the mystery elements.  The cover and format made me think this was geared towards younger readers, yet the characters are going into 7th grade.  This disconnect  might prove to be problematic in finding just the right audience for this story, but if middle grade readers can get past the young looking cover, they will find an accessible and fun read with a setting that many rural readers will be able to relate to.  

Far Far Away is the first book I've read by Tom McNeal, but it definitely won't be the last. The ghost of Jacob Grimm resides in Jeremy Johnson’s head.  Jeremy is an otherwise “normal” kid, and yet the presence of Grimm’s ghost (and narrator of the book) most definitely makes Jeremy act in ways that inevitably lead him to being a social outcast.  Grimm knows that he is there to protect Jeremy from something, although he doesn’t know exactly what.  The darkness that finally becomes overtly apparent at the end is chilling. McNeal blends fairy tale-esque features with a contemporary style that is at once sweet and creepy - both in the best possible ways.  This is a unique combination and one that will hit the mark with many YA readers. 

Finally, I was excited to get my hands on Lionel Shriver's latest offering entitled Big Brother.  I have loved Shriver's other work, including We Need to Talk About Kevin (talk about chilling!), The Post-Birthday World, So Much for That and The New Republic.  

Big Brother is essentially a story about family and the way that we navigate our blood and marital bonds.   After many years of not seeing one another, Pandora gets word that her jazz musician brother Edison is facing hard times in New York City.  Eager to reconnect, she sends him a plane ticket and invites him to come stay with her and her family.  When he arrives, Pandora doesn't recognize him; he's gained over 200 pounds and looks nothing like the handsome and cool brother that she has always known.  What unfold is the dissolution of one relationship and the deepening of another.  I read this book compulsively, but at times it felt like watching a train wreck and at other times it felt like I was reading narrative nonfiction about obesity, which was a bit jarring and disruptive.  Pandora and Edison are fascinating and memorable characters, but there is a twist at the end which served to pull the rug out from underneath me as a reader.  Some readers will be delighted by the surprise, but I was not one of them.  Shriver tackles big issues and big problems and her writing never disappoints me, but this one was not my favorite.

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