Thursday, June 19, 2014

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Vera grew up next door to Charlie and they've been best friends since always. But then Charlie betrayed her and which was followed by his untimely death. Vera knows things about Charlie, and how he died, and about his ex-girlfriend's involvement. Vera is just trying to get through life now though. She works a full time pizza delivery job, goes to high school full time, has a mother who left her and her father years ago, a dead (former) best friend, and drinks for "coping." Charlie though has every intention of haunting Vera until she clears his name. And the town's Pagoda (what many see as a monstrosity) jumps in every once in a while too, with "fun" town facts, "flying paper airplanes from here is littering" and an occasional bit of insight.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King, is mostly told from Vera's point of view, allowing the reader to see Charlie as she did before he betrayed her, after he did, and then after he died. However, Charlie, her dad, and yes, a Pagoda, chime in every so often. This allows for the more important characters to be more fully developed and therefore understood. The boy Vera has a crush on, James, never gets a chapter, and while there wasn't much wrong with him he just couldn't catch this reader's interest. The full story unfolds by switching from present day to "histories" in varying chapters, so the reader sees Charlie and Vera as they were and what they became. King presents a book with friend issues, family issues, death, and concerns about the future in a way that felt genuine and not over the top.  Not a light read, but definitely an interesting realistic fiction book with a dash of mystery tied to it (the mystery is purely for the reader Vera always knew what happened).


Monday, June 9, 2014

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown

In one afternoon everything changed for Jersey.  Living in a Midwest, Missouri town, she was used to storms and tornado sirens, that afternoon wasn't your average storm though, that afternoon's tornado destroyed Jersey's town and tore her life apart. Home alone at the time the tornado hit Jersey survived, but her mom and little sister, Marin were out and didn't make it. Her step father Ronnie survived the storm, but can't face life without his wife and daughter so he sends Jersey to live her biological father's family. Still reeling from the tornado Jersey is stuck with a family who has made it clear they would rather her not be there (tornado or not) and Jersey herself just wants to go home. But her home has been destroyed, not just the physical place, but the family that created it. Her last chance is with her mother's parents, a set of grandparents she has never known and who her mother stopped speaking to before Jersey was born. In spite of everything her mom said about them they do seem to want her around.

Torn Away is about getting through devastation, and sometimes everything falls apart when it feels like those left behind should be coming together. It's about learning that even those you loved might not always have made the right decisions. Jersey has to deal with the things she said in anger or frustration that can never be apologized for, and for all the wonderful moments her family shared that she can't get back. Brown's work is emotional on many levels, the reader gets not only Jersey's grief, but also her frustration and anger. How Jersey and her community deal with the devastation is heart wrenching and authentic.


Friday, June 6, 2014

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

Ezra Faulkner had almost everything going for him in high school. He was a star on the tennis team, had a hot girlfriend, and had the role of a leader in the popular group in school. Then, as his junior year came to an end he was in a hit and run car accident leaving his beloved car totaled, and him was with several severe injuries, including a leg that no longer worked properly. After spending the summer as a recluse Ezra returns to school for his senior year feeling as if everything has changed, sitting with his old group of friends in classes and during lunch feels wrong (especially now that his girlfriend is dating one of his old friends).  Luckily Ezra's childhood friend Toby comes to his rescue, sitting with him (and getting him kicked out of) the first pep rally of the year, and inviting Ezra to his lunch table. Then there's Cassidy, the new girl, with a mysterious past involving a debate championship disappearance the year before. Ezra (predictably) falls for Cassidy as she opens his eyes to new experiences, taking him on treasure hunts and to college lectures, and he starts to see the future in a different light. However, Cassidy is not just Ezra's catalyst, she has her own story and her own past that begin to come apart. While this book definitely has some stock characters (Ezra's ex girlfriend Charlotte is your standard popular mean girl) there are also many well developed characters with their own history. The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider is a good realistic fiction read that may even get some tears from readers at the end.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

On August 6, 1945 the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan (and shortly after one on Nagasaki, Japan), effectively ending World War II. That much is covered in history classes. Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin tells the story of how the bomb was created. German physicist, Otto Hahn was the one to discover, in 1938 that when "speeding neutrons hit uranium atoms ... the force of the collision seemed to be causing the urnaium atom to split into two," and this discovery is what made the creation of the atomic bomb possible. As news of this discovery spread and World War II was set into motion a race to be the first to build this new bomb was on. The race to build the atomic bomb involved secrecy, sabotage, the kidnapping of German scientists, and spies attempting to infiltrate the project. Even though the reader knows how the book will end (with the Americans creating and dropping the first atomic bomb) Sheinkin captures the excitement, tension, and urgency surrounding the Manhattan Project (what the project to produce the bomb was called) in the 1940s.

We'll be discussing this book, along with others, at Caudill Cafe on June 11th.