Gym Candy, by Carl Deuker
Young Mick Johnson wants nothing more than to please his ex pro football father and make the high school varsity team. But when faced with the possibility of being benched for the season and losing the fame he gained as the team's star player, Mick resorts to pumping up his performance with steroids, leading to unexpected consequences. Mick's plight, told in the first person, is recounted in Carl Deuker's perceptive and straightforward novel Gym Candy. Through Mick's eyes, we see his need to succeed overcome his common sense, resulting in a shocking and surprising (I was surprised!) turn of events, with a final chapter development that leaves the reader very unsettled.
Deuker's accurate ear for dialogue and his vivid description of the football game scenes and other moments, like the ones between Mick and his father, never strike a false note. The anti-drug message is implicit but never heavy-handed. Gym Candy is a compelling and powerful novel that holds the reader's attention from start to finish. Just don't expect a tidy happy ending.
August 2010 Archives
Gym Candy, by Carl Deuker
And Another Thing..., by Eoin Colfer
Grab your towel and stick out your thumb--fans of Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy are sure to enjoy this sixth installment in the series, penned by none other than Eoin Colfer of Artemis Fowl fame. I'm always a bit leery of new authors picking up where an original author left off, but Colfer's writing is at once reminiscient of Adams's without parroting it. Wry humor and bizarre situations abound in this latest intergalactic romp, and Colfer handles it all with wit and style.
The series's protagonist, Arthur Dent, once again finds himself at odds with the repulsive and sadistic alien Vogons when they decide that contractual fullfillment for destroying the Earth (the first time around) to make room for a hyperspace bypass also necessitates eradicating every last remnant of the human race everywhere else in the galaxy (the Vogons are nothing if not obsessively picayune regarding bureaucracy). It's up to Arthur and his comrades-in-craziness to foil the plans of the dastardly Vogons, and along the way they enlist the aid of Thor (yes, that Thor) and Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged (master hurler of insults) to save the last of humanity (who are currently preoccupied with worshipping cheese and toning their abs) from total annhilation. Again.
Here's hoping that Colfer writes a seventh installment, and if he finds a way to bring back Marvin the Paranoid Android (under warranty, I would hazard), well, that would be just froody!
Greenwich History: The Judge's Corner, selected and edited by Frank Nicholson
One of the best resources in Greenwich Library that complements the Local History Collection is Greenwich History: The Judge's Corner. It was the brain child of the late historian Frank Nicholson, who wanted to consolidate Frederick A. Hubbard's newspaper columns on Greenwich history into a handy source.
Frederick Hubbard was born in Hollis NH. When he was 8-years-old, he moved to Greenwich. He was educated in Greenwich public schools and Greenwich Academy. Hubbard was a judge of the Borough Court. Hubbard also wrote two important books on Greenwich history: Masonry in Greenwich (Gillespie; 1926) and Other Days in Greenwich (Tapley; 1913) From March 1928 to January 1933, he wrote historical columns for the Greenwich Press. He demonstrated a keen awareness and knowledge of local matters, and talked about prominent figures, historical events and other topics of interest. It provides some information not included in other sources. It's a great reference for students and adults. You can get caught up on some Greenwich history pretty fast by reading these re-printed articles. You will no doubt learn something you didn't know!
The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan
Equal parts zombie thriller and teenage romance, this book is set in a tense post apocalyptic world infected decades earlier by a mysterious virus. Now life contains two absolutes: the women of the Sisterhood dictate the rules of society and the Guardians provide protection from the undead.
Mary has lived all of her young life in a village surrounded by fences built to keep out the Unconsecrated, half-dead creatures that roam the forest craving human flesh. Generations ago villagers lost faith that any part of the world remains beyond their rigid society. A single photo keeps that faith alive in Mary; a photo of a young girl standing in the ocean.
Mary has reached the age to marry, but can she marry out of duty rather than love? Can anything make her forget the stories her mother told her of a vast ocean that may still exist beyond the forest? The appearance of a mysterious girl and the chaos that follows motivates Mary to seek out her answers.
This book was chosen as one of YALSAs Best Books for Young Adults in 2010.
Grades 9 and up
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford
An endearing and truly bittersweet tale of loyalty and friendship, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is set in Seattle and centered on the often traumatic circumstances faced by Asian youths during World War II. The two main characters . both American born of Chinese and Japanese parents, often face traumatic circumstances because of their Asian backgrounds. Henry is Chinese and his elementary school best friend Keiko is Japanese. Henry's father strongly pressures him to Americanize and fit in, even to the point of insisting he wear an "I am Chinese" button so he is not seen as being Japanese. Keiko and her family are seen as enemies of the United States and sent to an internment camp during the war years.
Ford splits the story development between Henry's childhood years as he tries to remain close to his pal Keiko and his adult years when he tries to reconcile the path his life took with his yearning to discover Keiko's fate after her family's confinement in the resettlement camp for Japanese-Americans. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a touching and revealing story of a segment of American society during the World War II years. This book is highly recommended.
Dark Life, by Kat Falls
A thrilling splash for summer reading! Readers will brave the deep water to the "Dark Life" where "pioneers" have been living for 15 years since devastating storms and rising sea levels caused much of the Earth's surface to collapse into the ocean. 15 year-old Ty was the first child born to the pioneers, loves his ocean life, and can't wait to own acres and acres of his own land underwater. Up on the surface, little land is left, leaving "Topsiders" to live in crowded apartments. Gemma is one of these Topsiders looking for the only family she has, a brother who disappeared among the ocean settlements. She knows nothing of the ocean, only the rumors of those like Ty who were born underwater and supposedly possess "Dark Gifts". Ty offers to help Gemma in her search for her brother, among the outlaws and the dangers of the settlement and of the ocean. Great for grades 5-9.
How an Economy Grows and Why it Crashes, by Peter D. Schiff
Ever wonder why the U.S. economy is in such bad shape (despite government talking-head Pollyannas), why inflation never seems to end, and why we owe so much money to other countries? Maybe you also have a niggling feeling in the back of your mind that economics is often made out to be much more complex than it needs to be by the same TV pundits whose predictive track-records are (at best) about the same as a coin flip. Well, wonder no further! Peter Schiff's latest book, How an Economy Grows and Why it Crashes explains all this and more. Written in simple, down-to-earth language, Schiff's book lays out the basics of capitalist economics using the fictitious nation of "Usonia" as a model by which to explain how our own U.S. economy started out on-track for success before eventually getting derailed.
Though the concepts discussed in Schiff's book start out fairly simple and progress in complexity, I never really found myself in over my head even with the more complex concepts; Schiff uses storytelling, humor, and helpful "takeaway" summaries to drive the various concepts home in fun and memorable ways. The book was a fast read (there are a few noticeable typos throughout, easily ignored), and I would recommend it to anyone who doesn't particularly like the idea of another Great Depression.
Just a side note about Peter Schiff himself: though he is a Republican (he's even running for Senate, with economic reform as his platform), in his book he resists any partisan temptation to blame our economic woes solely on one party, instead attributing blame equally, cognizant as he is that fiscal irresponsibility has transcended party lines for decades. It is also relevant to note that he accurately predicted the recent real estate bubble and bust (do a YouTube search for "Peter Schiff was right" for evidence of this), rising gold prices, and has been predicting the eventual collapse of the U.S. dollar for some time now (on that subject, I would also highly recommend his book Crash Proof 2.0: How to Profit from the Economic Collapse).
Jerry Lee Lewis: Lost and Found, by Joe Bonomo
I don't consider it to be well-written. I don't consider it to be well-organized. However, Jerry Lee Lewis: Lost and Found by Joe Bonomo is a must-read for anyone interested in early Rock and Roll history. Unlike his contemporaries, Jerry Lee Lewis was not financially successful in the United States. He was ostracized for marrying his 13-year-old second cousin when he was 22 years old. Lewis ended up moving to Europe, where he became very popular. He also became addicted to alcohol and pain killers, which led to many health issues later in life. Jerry Lee started out as a Rock and Roll icon, took a detour to Country Western music, then morphed back to rock. Known for "chasing skirts", he was married and divorced several times. To his fans, he was known as "The Killer". Some call him the "Father of Rock and Roll". Everyone is familiar with his great hits "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On", "Great Balls of Fire" and "Breathless". His style is unique and wild. The same could be said of his life. No one can deny that he had a great influence on the music of his day.
The Alchemyst - Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, by Michael Scott
This is the first book in the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott and is an excellent read. It is an adventure that has humor and car chases, as well as magic, immortal humans and an Elder race. Beginning in a bookshop in modern day San Francisco the teenage twins, Sophie and Josh Newman are dragged into a world they never knew existed, a world they believed to be only legend and myth. They are accompanied by bookshop owners Nick and Pere Fleming, whom they soon discover are actually the immortal humans Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel. The plot revolves around a book written thousands of years ago by Abraham the Mage known simply as the Codex. The Codex includes many spells and prophecies. It also includes alchemical recipes, notably for the Philosopher's Stone and the immortality potion which keeps Nicholas and Perenelle alive. However, what makes the book so pivotal is the Final Summoning spell, that if performed would allow the Dark Elders to return to the world and enslave the human race. The adventure begins from the first page when Flamel's former apprentice and ancient adversary, Dr. John Dee arrives to steal the Codex from Nicholas, its guardian. A brief magical battle ensues which ends with Dee capturing Perenelle and the Codex. Only later does Dee realize that Josh ripped out the last two pages containing the Final Summoning ritual just before he grabbed the Codex from him. Dee needs those pages above all else, so the chase is on. The book is very well written and the characters are fleshed out nicely. This is not a high fantasy novel in the Tolkien vein, but rather a terrific story brought to life in the manner of David Eddings or Piers Anthony. By the expert weaving of fictional explanations around actual historical facts and events, Michael Scott has created a believable and fun story. You won't be able to put it down.
Swindle, by Gordon Korman
Griffin Bing is the "man with the plan". This 6th grader hadn't planned on being swindled out of the value of a very rare Babe Ruth baseball card and he vows to get his card back. He plans a heist that includes assembling a team of kids to get past security systems, guard dogs, nosy neighbors and sneaky collector S. Windle Palamino.
The Lemonade War, by Jacqueline Davies
Evan's final weeks of summer are ruined when he finds out his sister Jessie is going to be in his 4th grade class this fall. Why? Jessie is his younger and smarter sister, and she is skipping a whole grade. Jessie is thrilled at the news and can't understand Evan's reaction or why he doesn't want to set up the lemonade stand together like they planned. Their fight turns into a "lemonade war" to see who can earn $100 in their rival stands.