“Life among Giants” Bill Roorbach

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published November 13, 2012. Algonquin Books (Workman Publishing). 331 pp.

This was my first Adult book in a long time and, while reading it, I realized why I don’t particularly like Adult books. It was WAY too long and WAY too boring.

Told through memories and present day snapshots over a time period flipping back and forth over more than 40 years, Lizard (David) recounts the story of his mother and father’s murders, his numerous sexual escapades, his sister Kate’s mental instability, his football career, his quest for revenge, and every major milestone in his very confused life. I wasn’t sure whether I was coming or going, and had to keep leafing back through the book to find out more information about something he had previously glossed over and which he was now describing in depth.

Overall, I thought “Life among giants” was confusing, uninteresting, boring, and had a very unsatisfying ending. I didn’t like it, but will leave it up to you to see if you want to Read It or Not.

“Emily’s Dress and other missing things” Kathryn Burak

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published October 2, 2012. Roaring Book Press. 232 pp.

I couldn’t decide if I really wanted to keep reading, or give up due to boredom. I stuck it out and can only say it was definitely not worth it.

Fans of Emily Dickinson may find some joy in it while those like myself, who barely remembered reading her work in high school, will completely miss all the seemingly obvious references to her poetry. In a nutshell, Claire is very upset because her mother committed suicide and left her to deal with finding the body. She didn’t deal very well, and is now in Amherst, Massachusetts (former home of Emily Dickinson) with her father hoping to finish up her second attempt at her senior year of high school. Claire finds herself drawn to the Emily Dickinson Museum, and spends her evenings sneaking into it.

While wearing Emily’s priceless dress, she is startled out of her reverie by Tate, her English student teacher. The two of them run out of the Museum, into the night, then spend the rest of the book trying to figure out how to return the dress. Hmmm. Has anyone ever heard of the U.S. Post Office? But, I digress…

Intermingled with what to do with the missing dress is the mystery of how Claire’s former best friend Richy disappeared. Clues seem to fall into place, but between all that was going on with Claire’s rambling thoughts, Emily’s poetry, Claire’s poetry, as well as Tate’s elusiveness, I had rapidly lost interest.

So, I’ll leave it up to you readers to see if you want to Read it or Not. I should have Not.

“Dead Girl Moon” Charlie Price

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). To be published October 30, 2012. Farrar Straus Giroux. 263 pp.

After being sexually abused by her brothers, Grace runs away and creates a new life for herself in the small town of Portage. Mick has spent his life running from the law with his criminal dad. When they find themselves in Portage, he hopes to finally set down some roots. Loner JJ has lived with her semi-comatose aunt and drug dealer uncle for years in their tiny trailer in Portage, never having had a chance to make friends with anyone. She loves looking at the moon and naming its different phases, as it helps her forget her life and imagine a new one.

The three teens wind up living so close to each other they soon become friends. After a visit to a nearby river, they find the body of a young girl who had been murdered. Afraid to tell the police what they suspect about the murderer, they decide to leave it there and lie about what they’d seen. When lies don’t work they run away and, thus, become prime suspects. They don’t know much about who would have killed the girl, but the murderer is sure they know more than they’re telling. He is willing to murder again to keep his secret.

I enjoyed this murder mystery, as the clues often kept me in the dark wondering whodunnit? Readers ages 13 and up will also enjoy it.

“The Bridge” Jane Higgins

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). First Published in 2011 in Australia. Published in the USA October 9, 2012 by Tundra Books (Random House). 340 pp.

This dystopian novel places two groups of people at war. On one side of the bridge, in Cityside, live the privileged. In Southside, located on the other side of the bridges, live all of the poor people called Hostiles. The Hostiles have been at war with Cityside for years, seeking equal rights and treatment.

Nik has lived in Cityside all his life and has worked hard for the chance to be recruited by ISIS (the Internal Security and Intelligence Services), an elite squad in the army. He is the only one who has never had family visit him, and is understandably upset when ISIS refuses to recruit him, and seem to be quite upset when they hear his name. His life turns upside down when the Hostiles bomb the school, killing his best friend and forcing him and a few of the students to flee for their lives. When he gets separated from his friends, he finds himself in Southside.

While there, he finds much of what he’d been about the Hostiles were lies. Unfortunately, they also had their share of stories they’d been told about Cityside people, and Nik has a lot of convincing to do if he expects to be allowed to live. He wants answers to the many questions in his head about his past and the current war, but learns more than he’d bargained.

“The Bridge” has lots of adventures, shootings, murders, escapes, intrigue, spying, and all sorts of mayhem to attract even the most reluctant reader ages 12 and up. Higgins cleverly left the ending wide open, which will lead to a nice sequel if she had it in mind to write one. I hope she does.

“Blind Spot” Laura Ellen

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). To be published October 23, 2012. Harcourt Children’s Books (Houghton Mifflin). 332 pp.

When sixteen-year-old Roz was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration, she felt like everything in her life was turned upside down. She was kicked off the softball team, lost her best friend and couldn’t even read the numbers on her locker without using a magnifying glass. Getting around school and finding people in crowds was difficult. In order to look someone in the eye, she had to focus on the edges of their face because the spots in her eyes got in the way of seeing them directly, leading some to think she was deliberately ignoring them when, in reality, she just couldn’t see them. Life was not looking up for Roz as she desperately tried to show everyone she was normal and didn’t have any problems.

When Jonathan, the handsome star hockey player started paying her attention, Roz ate it up and believed everything he had to say even though she suspected him of being involved with drugs. When she became friendly with Tricia, a recovering addict, she didn’t expect to find that Mr. Dellian, her special needs teacher, seemed to be awfully close with her. She became very suspicious when Tricia disappeared and turned up dead 6 months later.

Roz was sure Mr. Dellian had something to do with Tricia’s death and enlisted Jonathan’s help. Unfortunately, Roz couldn’t remember anything about what happened the night Tricia disappeared, except that they’d argued. Was she missing something important that had happened that night, or could her lack of memory be because she had something to do with Tricia’s death?

“Blind Spot” is not only a good murder mystery, but also does an excellent job educating teen readers 14 and older about Juvenile Macular Degeneration and how it affects eyesight.

“Betrayal” Gregg Olsen

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Empty Coffin series, Book #2. Splinter (Sterling Publishing). Published September 4, 2012. 267 pp.

Twins, Taylor and Hayley, have a special gift. They can see into the past and future, and can also sense each other’s thoughts. One night, they have a strange feeling something bad is going to happen. Soon, they find out their friend Olivia, a foreign exchange student from London, was brutally stabbed at a Halloween party. All the evidence leads to snarky rich girl Brittany and her boyfriend Drew, but it seems Olivia’s roommate Beth is also a suspect.

With cleverly concealed, then revealed, evidence Olsen keeps readers guessing as we join in the investigation and wonder whodunnit? I had my suspicions from the start, but Olsen did a good job of making me second guess myself. The mystery deepens when another girl is murdered, and it seems no one will be safe until the murderer is caught. The plot’s twists and turns, along with a surprise ending, made for a very satisfying read.

The book is good, but I was irked by the author constantly referring to some of the characters by their full names. Readers were already introduced to these characters earlier in the novel, so I didn’t feel it necessary to keep using their full names every time they were mentioned.

Olsen based “Betrayal” on Amanda Knox, who was convicted, along with her boyfriend, in the murder of Meredith Kercher in 2007. “Empty Coffin” is an interesting series, with murder mysteries based on real life events. Book #1, “Envy” was based on the suicide of Megan Meier, due to cyberbullying.

It remains to be seen what Book #3, “Guilty,” will be based on when it’s released in the future but I’m sure it will be interesting. Readers get a sneak preview of it at the end of “Betrayal.”

“October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard” Lesléa Newman

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). To be published September 25, 2012. Candlewick Press. 111 pp. (includes Notes, Explanation of Poetic Forms and Resources).

On October 6, 1998, Matthew Shepard was pistol whipped in the head with a .357 Magnum, beaten, tied to a fence, and left for dead in 30 degree weather by two men who hated gays. Police reports stated the only surface on his body not covered with blood were the tear tracks on his face.

The author had been invited to be the guest speaker at the University of Wyoming’s Gay Awareness Week, where Matthew had been a student. “October Mourning” is a collection of powerful poems recounting the events leading up to Matthew’s horrific murder, his last moments, as well as the trial and convictions of his assailants. Some poems are told from the point of view of inanimate objects, like the fence to which he had been tied, and all are full of emotion. Poetic styles from Haiku to Villanelles to Pantoum and many more are used to tell Matthew’s sad story.

Newman includes real life quotes from police officers, family members, the murderers and others to bring home her story and emphasize the importance of love versus hate. “October Mourning” is a strong, no holds barred look at ignorance and hate, along with mercy and love, for mature high schoolers.