Wild Librarian Bookspot

Welcome, book-lover types and interested others! After years of running a bookclub, it's clear that folks need to spread the word about good books ... and bad ones. I'll be uploading as many titles as I can. Read on.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

"Gabi, A Girl in Pieces" by Isabel Quintero

This wide-ranging and mature story of high school Senior Gabi's big year is a real winner and has jumped into one of my "favorites of all time."  Gabi loves food, she loves boys, and she is hopelessly lost trying to navigate the complexities of life.  One best friend is pregnant, the other has just come out as gay.  Her father is a meth addict and her mother believes she is not a good girl (she is) and is becoming too "American" (maybe).  Told in nearly poetic prose, with actual poetry and a stunning, feminist "zine" imbedded, this book is a treasure.  It is stark and to the point in language, which will make it a bit much for younger readers, but the authenticity of Gabi's voice, her city, her life, make this a novel which springs off the page.  I really could find no fault with the book, which is very rare.  Brava, Gabi, and all the young people trying to navigate the world.  In this tale, you have a companion who gets it.

Monday, October 16, 2017

"Fuzzy Mud" by Louis Sachar

Louis Sachar doesn't crank them out quickly but when he does put a book out it is very good.  Such is the case with "Fuzzy Mud" which has bits of "Wolf Hollow" and A.S. King's "Me and Marvin Gardens" in it.  Delightful, simple and short it is the story of a bully, a forest and an ecological disaster.  With a strong page-turning quotient and somewhat unique characters there is something for everyone to enjoy.  Adults will like the subtle sarcasm in the "transcripts of Senate Hearings" while kids will appreciate the reality of school life.  The lead characters, Tamaya and Marshall, are inquisitive, dimensional characters and the bully, as usual, has pain behind his actions.  Could breeze through this in an afternoon.  Another worthy addition to the Sachar canon.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

"Salt to the Sea" by Ruta Sepetys

"Between Shades of Gray" was quite good.  This book is brilliant.  Ms. Sepetys writes historical fiction about World War II, often focusing on the forgotten Eastern Front.  This searing tale, told in four voices, is about those brutal final months when Russia's advance and the collapse of Germany's power sent millions scrambling for safety.  The cover image and title reference the climax of the book. a true story somehow lost amidst the "romance" of other similar events.  While "Between Shades of Gray" maintained light strokes and some emotional distance, this book does not.  The brutality of the time is listed with clear detail -- not too much but "enough."  It became haunting for me.  It was a novel I could not stop thinking about long after I had put it down.  It is also very literary in structure and flow.  Again, Ms. Sepetys finds the right balance, making the novel readable and yet poetic.  It is powerful, difficult, worthwhile and sadly beautiful.  Worthy of the Carnegie Medal and other honors places upon it.  Brava.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

"Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant's Tale" by Duncan Tonatiuh

Umm ...

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

"Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverted Kids" by Susan Cain with Gregory Mone and Erica Moroz

So, I selected this book for a bookclub with staff because I am not an introvert but I work with a good many introverts so I wanted to understand them better.  From that perspective the book didn't quite succeed as it is directed at introverted youth and is kind of like a little "rah-rah" tome to help them cope.  That being said, there were nuggets and takeaways.  First, the quiz at the beginning made me think -- am I really the extrovert I think I am?  I landed right in the 50/50 bucket with the questions, so that stood out.  There isn't much research presented but what they do cover is interesting.  Who knew that there are actual brain differences between introverts and extroverts?  The book did make me rethink, as an instructor, about calling on kids and how I lump in "participation" as a vital part of engagement.  Throughout, the insistence that being shy is different than being introverted was kind of lost on me as the point was not well-made.  A breezy, light read, it only fell into the lecture-trap a couple times ("don't do drugs") and was a worthwhile exploration.  My major issue with the book was the constant characterization of extroverts as "popular", "charismatic" and "pretty".  I'm not sure character traits have anything to do with physical appearance and I can assure you, as someone who has always been called an extrovert I have rarely been considered popular (the words "strident" and "outspoken" have been used.) Maybe I need to write my own book to combat these stereotypes!  In any case, I can see this book being a solace to those who struggle with large social interactions -- the very center of school life. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

"The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict" by the Arbinger Institute

I really liked this.  One thing bugged me a bit but overall the book made the kind of impact that has had me thinking a good week after finishing it.  Presented as a nonfiction work, it seeks to help people see their role in negative interactions by finding a "peaceful heart" which allows them to see others with understanding and empathy.  The lessons are right on and easy to grasp.  The format is hugely readable as it is set in the framework of a kind of group encounter -- parents spending two days working with facilitators after dropping their addicted children off at a treatment center.  The format is where the book excels and stumbles.  By putting the points into a story, a narrative, it makes it infinitely readable and, in some ways, a page turner.  The problem is, this isn't a real encounter group.  It couldn't be, given the specificity of each character's inner voice.  It may have been cobbled together from various counseling sessions but it is inherently unreal and therefore comes off feeling a bit staged.  Nonetheless it mostly worked for me.  I was going through a significantly negative event while reading it and I actually felt myself becoming calmer, breathing more deeply, just by taking it in.  Bordering on Pop Pysch without being too saccharine, there were many take-aways with lasting impact.  A short, worthwhile book.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

"Bright Lights, Dark Nights" by Stephen Emond

Much like "Winter Town", another book of Mr. Emond's which I read four years back, I was kind of so-so on this.  There are two storylines.  One is a love story between Walter Wilcox and his best friend's sister, Naomi.  The other is the tale of Walter's father, a struggling divorcee cop who is accused of racial profiling.  The love story feels real.  Walter's inner voice is compelling and powerful.  The cop story feels more like something the author read about and it comes off didactic and moralistic.  As with his other book, this is clearly drawing from the author's own life.  The screaming dissonance of teens buying music CDs, Facebook use and "Instant Messaging" distracts in a tale supposedly set in the modern age.  The story is equally messy with threads which don't go anywhere.  Dad has an emotional bounce when he begins a friendship with a nice neighbor lady but it doesn't develop.  Walter's sister drifts in and out of the narrative but doesn't seem to have a purpose.  Unlike "Winter Town" the drawings don't really add to the story.  While they contribute a sense of darkness they sometimes clash with the narrative.  A picture of the high school party looks like a kid's birthday celebration, the set of the hospital looks like an elegant hotel lobby.  The characters in the artwork are mostly faceless leaving only a sense of despair and loneliness, which is odd for a love story.  In any case, it ain't bad but it ain't great.  Fans of angst will continue to enjoy the work of Stephen Emond but I'm ready to move on.