Archive for May 18, 2008

Peeled by Joan Bauer

PeeledFirst it was the man caught breaking into the old Ludlow House. Then it was the body found in the grove of trees on the property. The scary signs appearing on the door of the house added to the mystery. Finally, it was the headlines in the local newspaper, The Bee, which led to the hysteria in rural Banesville, New York, the heart of apple country. These headlines recalled ghosts sitings and mysterious occurrences at the house many years ago.
Hildy Biddle lives in Banesville and is a reporter on the high school newspaper, The Core. She’s so brave, she’s the only one the editor would think of putting on the Ludlow House story. She’s not afraid of ghosts. However, she does become afraid of the scare tactics being used to force orchard owners to sell their property after two difficult years. Something is happening in Banesville that she can’t explain. But it does need explaining because it is forcing a change that no one wants.
As Hildy and the other Core reporters dig deeper into the Ludlow House story, they come across other malevolent occurrences. They get threatened. The school paper is forced to close for fear of a lawsuit. Should they continue their investigation. Hildy, the daughter of a well-respected local newspaper reporter who passed away recently, has a heritage to continue. They go underground and start printing an alternative newspaper, The Peel. The question is what will they find?
Joan Bauer has a long string of great books and Peeled is the latest. It’s got great characters, a realistic plot, suspense, romance, and intrigue. The dialogue is believable and the story is fun. Apple lover or not, Peeled is a juicy book.

Ed Goldberg,
Teen Services Librarian

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

Suite Scarlett is sweet.
SuiteScarlettThis is the story of Scarlett, Spenser, Lola and Marlene Martin. They live in a small, old hotel on the east side of Manhattan which is owned by their parents. Each of them has their own story which unfolds over the course of a summer.
Spenser, the oldest sibling, wants to be an actor but his parents want him to go to culinary school. They gave him a year to get his acting career going and that year is almost up. No major acting jobs are knocking at his door.
Lola, next oldest, is working in retail and dating ultra-rich Chip, who nobody likes…possibly not even Lola.
Marlene is the youngest at age eleven. She is a cancer survivor and as a result rules the roost. I other words, she’s a brat.
And then there’s Scarlett. Just turned fifteen, Scarlett is in charge of the Empire Suite (she must clean it, cater to lodgers staying in it, etc.) at the hotel. One hot June day, Ms. Amberson rents the suite for the summer. Mysterious, flamboyant, dramatic and demanding, Ms. Amberson is a force to be reckoned with.
OK, in all honesty, I was expecting more. All the reviews I read gave this book 5 stars, so maybe after all the hype I was a little let down. But this is definitely a 4 star book. It is full of intrigue, pranks, actors and acting, romance, more intrigue and just plain fun.
You are going to love every character. You are going to laugh. You are going to root for Scarlett and Spenser and Lola and Marlene. If you like quirky characters, you’ll love Ms. Amberson. You’ll want to continue reading, even when you should be going to sleep. So, hey, maybe this is a 5 star book. You tell me.
Ed Goldberg
Teen Services Librarian

Musings by Maureen Johnson

You might know by now that I like Maureen Johnson (Bermudez Triangle, Girl at Sea, Devilish, 13 Little Blue Envelopes). I’m assuming you do as well. Her new book, Suite Scarlett, which has recently been published (and for which I have put in my reserve) has received great reviews. She seems to be a regular on the Trashionista Blog, from which this is copied. Hope you enjoy her musings.
GUEST BLOG: Maureen Johnson
MaureenJohnson2How we love Maureen Johnson. Her new, fabulous, book Suite Scarlett is out now. It’s one of my favourites and so I asked Maureen to tell Trashionista readers about *her* favourite books.
I have been asked to talk a little about the books that formed me into the writer I am today – the classics I cut my teeth on. I was going to talk about my love of Fitzgerald, of Hemingway, of T.S. Eliot and Mark Twain and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle . . . all favorites of mine while growing up.
I’m sure that would have been very interesting to read, but I have instead decided to talk about the more questionable books that hooked my interest for sometimes inexplicable reasons and got me into various forms of trouble.
At age eight, I developed what I now think was a somewhat unhealthy obsession with the Girl Scout Handbook. The Girl Scout Handbook gets updated all the time. The version I had was just a big book full of half-witted projects, written and complied by (I assume) some maniac who lived in a shed. I guess he did it in his breaks between writing long letters to local officials about how the government was using cats and radio waves to spy on him.
I mean, what other kind of person puts together a book for eight-year-old girls that explains how to make a small stove from a tuna fish can? Who else could come up with something called “Campfire Stew,” which was basically just a lot of canned meats cooked over inadequate heat (because you were using a tiny stove made from a tuna fish can) in a pot that had many other purposes aside from stewing. Like washing your underwear.
The book also had a List of Insane Badges, mostly for things eight-year-olds can’t do . . . like win chess tournaments, compete in professional figure skating competitions, or hang glide. So after the manual turned you into a dirty hobo, it made you feel inadequate because YOU WERE NEVER, EVER GOING TO GET A BADGE, YOU NON-HANG-GLIDING LOSER.
So it’s difficult to explain why I couldn’t get enough of this book. I read it until it fell apart. I slept with it at night and woke up with loose pages under the pillows.
It wasn’t even like I was into scouting. I was the worst girl scout of all time. Case in point: when given my troop numbers pinned on to a piece of ribbon, I promptly forgot them. I took the numbers off the ribbon and sewed them on to my sash in the completely wrong order. I got to my meeting and they said, “Um, Maureen, you’re not in Troop 476. You’re in troop 764.” I think I only went to four meetings, ever. Then we went on the “field trip” to the local Burger King, and I bailed for good.
But I never tired of that stupid manual. I guess it goes to prove that I’m usually more into the book than the “experience.” And I still really want to make that little tuna fish can stove.

AndThenThereWereNone.jpgAGE THIRTEEN
I went to England for the first time when I was thirteen and blew my tiny stash of cash on albums and books. I sat in the car, praying that my father wouldn’t kill us all as he barreled down the wrong side of the road and took roundabouts at two times the allowable speed, listening to music and reading. I was thrilled with the trip, but my parents didn’t realize it because all I did was listen to music and read. But that was pretty much my idea of a good time. Still is.
So I’m sitting in the back of the Car of Death, reading the very last pages of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. If you don’t know the book, it’s pretty much THE premier whodunit of ever. All of these characters are trapped on an island and get knocked off one by one, until you’re down to two, and then one . . . and then the last one . . . well . . . I won’t tell you but it’s SPINE TINGLING. At least it was when I was thirteen. The mystery seems impossible, and I was just getting to the last five pages, where the whole thing gets explained . . .
And then we pulled up in front of Stonehenge.
My mom said “Get out of the car!” And I said, “In a minute! I am just getting to the part where they tell you what happens!” Because when you are in the last five pages of And Then There Were None you REALLY HAVE TO READ THEM.
But then again, my parents had brought me three thousand miles over an ocean to look at these HUGE STONE THINGS, and she didn’t care that I desperately, desperately needed to find out who the murderer was. I tried to sneak the book with me, but she saw it and made me leave it in the car. This is the reason I really was paying no attention at Stonehenge whatsoever. I still suspect it’s just a joke some English people assembled to lure innocent American tourists, just to see how far we will go to stand in a field and look at rocks.
Someone gave me this book called An Old Fashioned Mystery, which was supposedly written by this woman who lived on one of the Thousand Islands and who disappeared right after finishing the manuscript [the author is Runa Fairleigh]. I got it during an otherwise deadly dull summer, when my father had been transferred to Kentucky. We had to go and visit him. I didn’t know anyone in Kentucky, and it was 115 degrees out, so all I did was read for weeks and weeks.
I read this book, I promise you, every single day of that summer, over and over and over again. It’s another classic deserted island/people being killed off story, a la And Then There Were None, except kind of weirder and funnier and much more modern. And in the end (yes, I’m going to spoil it because I don’t even think you can get this book anymore) . . . all the characters get killed and you find that NONE OF THEM did it. It was the AUTHOR who killed them all. They all meet up in limbo and figure it out, and one of them (my favorite, by far the funniest, still one of my favorite characters ever) makes a really bad pun about the author’s name, and as a punishment, the author sends him to HELL, where no one tells any jokes.
My connection to this book was absolutely ridiculous . . . so it’s kind of shocking that I actually lent to someone, a friend of our family who was in college. She had it for a few weeks, and I started to jones for it really badly, so I asked for it back. She avoided the question. Thinking back on it, it’s very plain how the book met its fate. Things do not last in college. Your drunk friends come to your room and eat your stuff. But I was fifteen and I WANTED MY BOOK BACK and generally haunted her like the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. She panicked and went into hiding.
I went through withdrawal. I writhed. I tried to find another copy somewhere, but it was long out of print, and there was no internet to get another. Finally, when I stopped banging my head against the wall and twitching, I transferred my obsession on to The Great Gatsby . . . and almost immediately, the book was returned. It was clearly a different copy. It had a stamp in the front cover from some used bookstore. Neither of us ever spoke of the matter again, and I have never let the book leave my possession, even though I haven’t read it since then. No, you can’t have it.

The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith

TheComebackSeason.jpgWell, here’s another book that I expect will be included in my Top 10 favorites of 2008. In The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith, we are introduced to fifteen year old Ryan Walsh. It’s been five years since her father died in a white water rafting accident. It’s been five years that she’s been remembering him and idolizing him; his jokes, his words of wisdom, his optimism. They were avid Chicago Cubs fans, the team that hasn’t won a World Series in 100 years. So, it’s appropriate that she should meet Nick on an April day she’s cutting class to go to a game.
Nick is new at school, having been there a month. He’s popular and has lots of friends. She, on the other hand, has become more of a loner over the past few years. Her childhood friends have moved on while Ryan has stayed static, reliving the days with her father.
Ryan and Nick’s relationship quickly develops into more than just a friendship. It’s an easy going relationship, lots of quiet times, but it is strong. So it comes as a shock when he tells her that he won’t be seeing her during the summer.
Avid Cubs fans have a lot of faith that next year will be different; that next year they will come back to victory. The Comeback Season is a book about faith and hope and love; family and friendship.
I won’t deny it. I got misty-eyed towards the end of the book, but then again, I’m a softy. I loved this debut novel and hope that Ms. Smith will be writing another book soon.
Ed Goldberg,
Teen Services Librarian