Tuesday, September 29, 2009

English and American Folk Music (book review)

English and American Folk Music, by Richard Carlin, is an in-depth description of the methods and history of the musical genre we call "folk music". Carlin discusses the roots of the music, the different types, and the music theory behind it. We learn how it was passed from Europe to America, and how African-Americans added their own unique flavor to it. We travel to Louisiana to learn about Cajun and Creole dances, to Texas to learn about the unique Mexican-American music known as Tex-Mex, and are introduced to many famous musicians along the way.

If you want to learn about folk music, this is definitely the book to read. It was in-depth and descriptive, but not boring. However, in Chapter 8 the printing went wrong and a few of the paragraphs were switched around, leaving sentences hanging off into space and having words pop up at inopportune moments in the book. It's too bad, too, because that looked to be the most interesting chapter!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Warriors: Graystripe's Adventures (book review)

Graystripe's Adventures, by Erin Hunter, is actually a set of three graphic novels centering on the warrior cats who are also featured in Hunter's novels, Warriors. These three books (The Lost Warrior, Warrior's Refuge, and Warrior's Return) chronicle the life of the ThunderClan deputy Graystripe after he is kidnapped by "twolegs" (humans). His story begins after he has been taken to a twoleg house. He has plenty of food and shelter, and the twolegs are kind to him, but Graystripe can't forget his home in the forest. So he sets out for home, and along the way is joined by a friendly housecat named Millie. They meet several unlikely new allies and face difficulties that will push both of them to the limit...but they are both in for the ultimate shock when they arrive at the forest to find it...destroyed. Can Graystripe and Millie use their tracking skills to find what remains of ThunderClan, or is this the end of the road for them?

I really enjoyed these graphic novels. They were nice and quick, certainly not time-consuming at all. If you've read the original Warriors books, I'd definitely recommend these to you. However, if you haven't, don't read these yet--wait until you've read Warriors first!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Heir Apparent (book review)

Heir Apparent, by Vivian Vande Velde, is an amazing combination of science fiction and fantasy. It takes place in the future; however, the protagonist, Giannine, is immersed in a fantasy game for a majority of the book. Called Heir Apparent, the game she is playing tests gamers' strategical thinking...in a world where anyone could be a backstabbing murderer, who can you trust?

Meanwhile, back in the real world, protesters have damaged the gaming equipment in the facility where Giannine is playing, and now she has a limited time to win the game. And if she can't make it through in time, she'll die...for real.

This was the first book I read by Vivian Vande Velde, and I loved it. I enjoyed the unique combination of science fiction and fantasy, and Giannine was a character that I felt I could relate to. What made the book even cooler was that it took place in Rochester, NY, which is close to where I live! Anyway, this was a great story with a plot full of twists, and I'd recommend it to fans of either science fiction or fantasy.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Willem de Kooning (book review)

Willem de Kooning, by Louise Hawes, is a brief biography of this famous Dutch artist, beginning when he was a young boy, and ending after his death in 1997. When I say brief, I mean brief; I read this book in about 20 minutes. While I thought his life and his artwork were interesting, I would have liked a more in-depth look at it. My library has this book classified under Young Adult nonfiction; however, I would recommend it to much younger readers, as I think they would enjoy it a lot more.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Jungle (book review)

The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair, is the story of a family of Lithuanian immigrants working in Chicago's Packingtown district. First, I must warn you: this is not a happy book. But it gives us an honest representation of what life was like for meat-packing workers at the turn of the century. The protagonist, Jurgis Rudkus, and his young wife, Ona, move with their family to America. It is a land of hopes and dreams, where anyone can become rich--or so they think. But their work at Packingtown tells them a different story. It is a place where the life is slowly sapped out of workers until they are nothing but empty shells, and then they are cast aside to die while the packers replace them with fresher, stronger men. We watch as Jurgis's family sinks into ruin and one by one they are slowly overwhelmed by the harsh, never-ending circumstances that they are doomed to suffer in for the rest of their lives.

Like I said before, this is not a happy book. However, it isn't dull and boring either. It's quite interesting, and the reader soon becomes sympathetic toward the family's plight. This may be a novel, but at the time it was written, thousands of men, women, and children were suffering in the same way, and the book is a shocking reminder of this dark aspect of our history.

This book was assigned to me for history, and I think that it is a wonderful book to read if you are interested in this particular time. It covered many controversial topics from this period--from Socialism, dirty politics, and immigrants, to muckraking, the gap between the rich and the poor, and the revolutionary new industrial equipment that was making its way into our culture. I was a little worried that this would be a dull book, but that was not the case at all! I'd definitely recommend it to any fans of historical novels.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Different Kind of Read-a-thon

Last week, I joined the Teen Advisory Board at my local library. We meet once each month and discuss issues involving the library. We volunteer and help out at special events. I also volunteer weekly. Each year, our library helps sponsor the Teen Book Festival at Nazareth College. This year, to help raise money for the festival, we're participating in a Read-a-thon at Barnes and Noble. We get sponsors to pay us to read from 1pm to 5pm (certainly not a big challenge compared to the twenty-four hour read-a-thon) and then the money goes to the Teen Book Festival. I was wondering if any of you guys would sponsor me. It doesn't have to be a lot, just two or three dollars, maybe, and you certainly don't have to. But if you would like to, please comment. Thanks so much!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Luckiest Girl in the World (book review)

The Luckiest Girl in the World, by Steven Levenkron, is the story of fifteen-year-old Katie. At first glance, she appears to be the girl who has everything. She's pretty, bright, and an extremely talented figure skater. But she has a secret--she cuts herself. When the pressures of school, skating, and her psychologically abusive mother become too much, Katie has a breakdown right in the middle of school, and her secret is out. Now she has to see a shrink, but Katie's determined not to talk. But she can't keep quiet for long, and when she opens her mouth, what will her fate be?

This book was good, but not great. Katie's story was interesting enough to keep you reading, but it wasn't a fast-paced can't-put-it-down kind of book. However, it did address a very real issue that is important to lots of people today.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pedro and Me (book review)

Pedro and Me, by Judd Winick, is the heartbreaking true story of a friendship between two young men--one of whom had AIDS. Pedro Ramora was a nationwide AIDS educator who was known around the world. Judd Winick was a "starving artist" living in an apartment with his friend. They met when they were both cast on MTV's hit The Real World, and they soon struck up a strong friendship. When Pedro revealed to Judd that he had AIDS, Judd was surprised, but it did nothing to stop their growing friendship. Their friendship was as strong as ever, and Judd learned more about the disease than he ever could have thought...until Pedro got sick. Very sick. First with toxoplasmosis, and then with PML--Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy. And, after a long and difficult struggle...Pedro died. Now, Winick is here to tell Pedro's story like it's never been told before...in a graphic novel filled with both humor and heartbreak. At the end of the story, you will feel like you knew Pedro personally, and you will feel inspired to do something to help.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Alanna: The First Adventure (book review)

Alanna: The First Adventure, by Tamora Pierce, is the first installment in the Song of the Lioness quartet. The heroine of the story, Alanna, is to be sent to a convent to study magic, while her twin brother, Thom, is to go to the palace to train as a knight. It isn't a good match; while both twins have what is known as "the Gift", Alanna is much braver and more skilled at fighting than Thom, while Thom has more of a knack for magic. So they decide to switch places. Alanna, disguised as a boy, heads to King Roald's palace to begin her training, and Thom, disguised as a girl, heads to the convent.

Once she arrives, Alanna discovers that being a knight isn't all about battles and glory. She must also learn to work hard and curb her fierce temper before it gets her into trouble. Throughout the course of her training as a page, Alanna will make more than one enemy...but she will also discover a host of unlikely allies.

This was overall a very good book, although it wasn't as good as some of the other Tamora Pierce novels I've read. It seemed as if most of the action took place at the very end. However, it was still enjoyable, and the heroine was funny and likable. But I'd recommend reading some of her other, better books first.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Vacations from Hell (book review)

Vacations from Hell is a story anthology with contributions by Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Claudia Gray, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Mlynowski.

In the first story, "Cruisin'," Kristin finds herself on a cruise ship rumored to be plagued by a mysterious vampire. But no one will ever suspect the truth...

"I Don't Like Your Girlfriend," is the story of two enemies who are forced to bunk with each other for a week in a tiny, claustrophobic cabin. The only catch? They're both witches!

In "The Law of Suspects," sisters Marylou and Charlotte are enjoying a peaceful, if strange, vacation in the French countryside...that is, until Charlotte meets two mysterious young men and uncovers an ancient curse...

"The Mirror House," takes place in sunny Jamaica. Violet is on a vacation with her mother, stepfather, and stepbrother on an island paradise, but she's not having any fun. She's mostly bored, and concerned about her stepfather abusing her mother...that is, until she questions a servant and discovers that the beautiful woman living next door is really a witch--and she's preying on Violet's stepbrother's soul!

The final story in the book, "Nowhere is Safe," is by far the scariest of them all. It is the story of four young backpackers journeying deep into a European forest. Little do they know that one of them will soon become the subject of an unpleasant prophecy, and that they will soon participate in a gruesome ritual and witness an uprising of the dead to get revenge for their unfair murder.

Overall, this anthology was very good. There was a nice mix of funny and scary stories in it. However, the last one was kind of disturbing, but still very good writing. I would definitely recommend these stories to fans of horror!

This book is for the RIP IV Challenge.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

My Sister the Vampire: Switched

My Sister the Vampire: Switched, by Sienna Mercer, is the story of two sisters, Ivy and Olivia. Adopted by different parents when they were babies, they have never known each other...until Olivia moves to Franklin Grove and starts eighth grade at the same school as Ivy. Soon, they meet and discover that not only are they sisters, but they're twins--identical twins!

Ivy and Olivia are brimming with plans to switch places and try out life in one another's shoes. But Ivy has a secret--she's a vampire, and she's not the only one in Franklin Grove. Will she tell Olivia, or will her sister find out the hard way?

This was, overall, a good book. It was nice to read if you want something quick, light, and funny. However, sometimes it seems as if the author came up with a quick explanation for some parts of the book to keep the plot from becoming more complicated. But that was my only problem with it, and I'd definitely recommend it to fans of vampire books.

This book was for the RIP IV Challenge.