Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Latest Books

In case you haven't heard, known us before, or are otherwise not in the loop, we are a book-loving family. A serious book-loving family. No, really. Almost every wall in our house is lined with bookcases. When we go on vacation, about the first thing we do wherever we stop is find the bookstore. (I'll write more about the various bookstores in another post. If I forget, remind me.) You don't even want to know how much we spend on books in a year. I don't even want to know. And we read these books; we don't just buy them. So at any given time, most of our family members have multiple books in their stack of "currently reading."

Now, because I write young adult novels, I tend to read a lot of YA novels, but I also read a hefty number of non-fiction works as well as a variety of middle grade as well as adult novels. So from time to time, I will be posting about my latest reads.

Recently, I finished my friend Sydney Salter's latest release, Jungle Crossing. This is a cleverly written book in which a family with two daughters travels to Mexico for vacation. Kat is the narrator. She's going into 8th grade, and she is burdened with the most annoying little sister on the planet, Barb. They get trucked off to a daily excursion while their parents suck up the luxury at the hotel. They are guided by a couple of local guys, and one of them starts telling Barb a Mayan story. The novel goes back and forth between what's actually happening in the present and the story of the Mayan girl, Muluc. Muluc is an elite class, but is captured and sold as a slave for a while. She learns to treat others in a more compassionate manner, and that is sort of what Kat learns too during the book. She's been obsessed with her popular friends back home, but by the end of the book, she realizes that the way they treat others is plain mean. It's a delightful book. Great job, Sydney.

Before that, I read another friend, Ellen Hopkins' book Identical. I hadn't read it yet, and my oldest, Melissa, was hogging Ellen's newest book, Tricks, so I had to have my Ellen Hopkins fix. If you haven't read any of Ellen's books, then you need to get out there and try them. They are told in the most delicious verse, with crafty poems within poems. She deals with difficult subjects in an honest and straightforward way. It you don't like that, then don't read them. But if you can put aside any self-righteous ideas that kids don't do these things and realize that they sure as hell do, then you might enjoy this author. She is a master at her craft, and worth reading even if the subject matter bothers you. So, Identical is told from the viewpoint of two identical twins. Their lives are messed up like you wouldn't believe. There is incest, drug and alcohol use, abandonment, attempted suicide, and sexual Russian roulette. In the end, you find out the twist that you were not expecting, and it all makes sense. The end is also hopeful and uplifting.

Right now I'm reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about a year of changing a family's way of understanding and enjoying food. So far it's excellent. I recently saw the movie "Food Inc." and it follows a similar message.

I'm sure the other Jensen girls will post about all the books they love, too. It's a different set than mine, at least partially.


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