31 August 2012

The Language of Flowers – By: Vanessa Diffenbaugh (Fiction)

I love it when a book lives up to expectations, but it’s even better when it exceeds expectation. I thought that this novel was completely engrossing. To say I devoured it would be too mild. For four hours I inhaled it like air.

The story is told from the point of view of Victoria, a ward of the state who ages out of the system without a family. She’s had such a traumatic life that she only connects with others through the Victorian Era language of flowers. The story is split between an especially important foster home episode during her childhood, and her present. The two play off each other, giving us a better understanding of Victoria. We know that her past doesn’t include a happy ending which gives us some insight into her present. The narratives progress together, one rushing to its inevitably tragic conclusion while the outcome of the other is more uncertain.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat and Potatoes

26 August 2012

Unlocked – By: Ryan G. Van Cleave (Teen Fiction)

In this lyrical story, two violently troubled teens become friends. Soon one suspects that the other is going to take his anger one step too far. It’s an immensely relatable story, written from the viewpoint of a concerned, but eager friend. The story captures his joy at finally having a friend to his realization that something is seriously wrong with that friend, and finally his agonizing decision.

It’s hard to capture adolescence, with all of its wild dreams, insecurities and of course violence. It’s an experience like no other, and approximations always come off as being obscenely patronizing and inauthentic. That’s why it’s so good when it’s done right.

Bookwyrm Rating: Vegetable

23 August 2012

The Prince Who Fell From the Sky – By: John Claude Bemis (Children’s Fiction)

In a world run by the animals, it’s become criminal for a species to have been allied with the “Skinless Ones” (that’s us creepy humans). But an outcast bear has her world turned upside down when a human crash lands in her meadow. Instead of a menace, she sees a helpless cub who's just like all other cubs. Hunted by the reigning beasts she sets off to find a good home for the boy.

This story is built on good characters and imaginative world-building. When the narrative gets a little preachy for my taste, the plot saves it from disaster. This is a fun children’s read that has the ability to be turned into an interesting conversation.

Bookwyrm Rating: Appetizer 

18 August 2012

Niceville – By: Carsten Stroud (Fiction)

It’s the Deep South in all its haunting glory, and here in Niceville bad things happen regularly. People disappear without a trace, and normally decent people do horrendous things without a second thought. But, it isn’t until a kid disappears on camera that anyone really pays any attention to it.

The plot kicks off in an explosive way. Without a main character to focus on, we’re able to get a better feel for the terrible thing which is Niceville. The chapters switch between different characters, and different plots, and you’re left hoping that you’ll get back to your favorites. The way that it builds the suspense is masterful. Four or five story lines spiral around each other out of control. Like water swirling down the drain they pull closer together until they drag each other down a deep, dark rabbit hole.

Bookwyrm Rating: Appetizer

12 August 2012

The Great Escape – By: Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Fiction)

When you’re ready to run out on your wedding, the best thing to do is to hop of the back of a dangerous stranger’s motorcycle…right? Oh well, that’s where this fun romantic fiction takes off, whether it makes sense or not it is a lot of fun. Lucy (our brilliant and completely composed heroine) decides that she really isn’t ready to get married to the perfect man, so she sets off on an adventure with a completely inappropriate man, Panda.  

If you’re looking for great characters and a fun story, this is the place to start. A perfect end of summer read. And if you’re not ready to say goodbye to this cast you’re in luck, it’s part of a series. Don’t worry about reading the others first, it’s not necessary.

Bookwyrm Rating: Dessert

09 August 2012

Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt – By: Christopher Hedges & Joe Sacco (Nonfiction)

Sometimes ignorance is bliss. And other times it causes other men’s misery. What you don’t know can and does hurt you and everyone around you; which is what Messrs. Hedges and Sacco are here to fix. America is full of “sacrifice zones”, areas which have been used up and sold out in the name of profit. Landscapes, cultures and people are mere pawns to be used by corporations that take all of the profit and share none of the misfortune they leave in their wake. The authors do an outstanding job by giving a voice and a face to the suffering that arises from the communities that are left behind.

But this is more than a poke to the conscience; it’s a call to arms. People are currently working to maintain and better their communities and their country, and there are things that we can and should do too. We don’t have to agree with the author politically, and he’s not asking for you to agree with him. But it is important to understand how politics and social policy can impact everyday life for millions of people, and then to do something about it.

Bookwyrm Rating: Vegetable (Perhaps the most vegetabely vegetable I’ve ever recommended) 

05 August 2012

Amped - By: Daniel H. Wilson (Science Fiction)

In this sci-fi thriller there are two kinds of people; those whose bodies and minds are enhanced by science, and the regular humans. The main conflict revolves around the status of those who are "technologically enhanced" to compensate for deficiencies. Governments, religions and people all try to decide if the "amps" are still human, or if they are somehow separate from the "reggies" because they now perform better than the average human. The characters are well written and sympathetic, and the results of this conflict are frighteningly realistic.

The whole plot is both thrilling and thought provoking. It actually reminded me of a non-fiction that I recommended a while ago, "An Optimists Tour of the Future", which lays out a lot of the upcoming technology and social issues surrounding it. In fact, anyone watching the Olympic Track and Field competition right now knows that this is already becoming an issue. A more advanced kind of technology is coming in the not so distant future, and it's worth imagining what that future could look like.

Bookwyrm Rating: Meat & Potatoes