/* Feeds ----------------------------------------------- */ #blogfeeds { } #postfeeds { padding:0 15px 0; }

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Samurai Shortstop

Author: Alan Gratz
Reading Level: 6th - 8th

Pages: 280
Publisher: Dial (Penguin Putnam)
Edition: Hardcover, 2006

Every scene is necessary in this tightly written and thoroughly researched historical novel. The events unfold as the momentum gains and as Toyo's self-understanding grows - subtly but with such forces that I could not put the book down. The opening scene of detailed Seppuku (suicide by cutting open one's own stomach) ritual and some of the High School hazing methods are definitely not for the faint of heart. Yet this is not a book about violence, but about honor, loyalty, teamwork, inner strength, and physical strength, as well. All the necessary components of a successful baseball team.

To link the spirit of Bushido (Way of the Warriors) and baseball presents such a fresh look on the American's National Pasttime that will inspire many young readers to think about the sport they love more deeply and meaningfully. This is an amazing and perfect book!

Note on Cultural Inaccuracies: My suspicion was confirmed by a Japanese friend that since Gratz is not Japanese, nor is he an expert in the Japanese language, some cultural inaccuracies occur in the book. The most glaring problem for me is the use of first names of anyone elder. It simply is not done -- not then, and not even now in the 21st century. A son will never call his own father by the first name - no matter HOW much he detest his own father. When calling an upper classman, one will always use honorifics: -san and -sempai attached to either the first or last names; and when the younger students are addressed, the older ones might use -kun. These can be easily researched -- even a simple google search or any entry level Japanese language text book can reveal the correct usage of these honorifics. Since it IS still an integral part of the Japanese culture, the ignoring of such practice shows a certain mentality from the author and the publisher. What a shame!

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Titan's Curse

Author: Rick Riordan
Reading Level: 4th - 6th

Publisher: Hyperion
Edition: Hardcover Galley, 2007

Reading the 3rd installment in the Percy Jackson series is now like drinking a can of regular soda - there is the sugar rush and the addiction! It's fun, it's full of fast paced actions, it's familiar, and it does leave you wanting more - especially with Percy having a new enemy and Luke might not be all that he seems! Although it will not be considered exactly the healthiest choice by "reading dieticians" (this term here refers to the literary purists who think reading only exists to improve one's literary taste and heighten one's intelligence or humanity).

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City

Author: Kirsten Miller
Reading Level: 5th-7th

Pages: 250
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Edition: Hardcover, 2006

The concept is so intriguing: a shadow city 70 feet underground of Manhattan, with entrances from a cemetery, a bank vault, a Chinatown counterfeit factory, etc., and a group of super-girls who each possesses a singular special talent: a master disguiser, an expert researcher, a mad chemist, a skilled mechanics, a talented forger, and Kiki Striker, the enigmatic mastermind. Their goal to save New York City is lofty and Kiki Strike's hidden agenda is not as sinister as one is led to believe. And, yet, and yet... I could not thoroughly enjoy this book. Actually, I felt a bad taste at the back of my throat throughout the reading of this otherwise ingenious novel.

Kiki Strike made me realize that I partially read for characters. I enjoy a good, intriguing plot with lots of twists and surprises the next eager reader. However, all the clever plot twists, the inventiveness, and the suspenseful mood could not make me forget, or forgive, the cattiness of each of the members of the Bank Street Irregulars (as the six-girl squad is so named.) Their relentless sarcasm and taunts toward each other, even when done in good humor, have the underlining nastiness that cannot be wiped clean from my mind; the author also opted to insert cynical commentaries and gratuitous violent scenes whenever possible (the walk-on characters of grade-school aged sisters seen in their home garden strangling each other until both turn blue over a petty matter, for example.) After a while, the initial sense of witticism gives way to depressing negativity.

Ah. I absolutely sound too harsh. After all, I did find the book charming in its quirky, outlandish, and even informative (lots of New York City historical oddities and other useful tips, such as how to put on a successful disguise and how to tell if someone is telling a lie) way. I guarantee its success with many young readers, especially somewhat brainy 5th and 6th graders who aspire to become spies or super-heroines!

Labels: , , , , , ,

Nothing but the Truth (and a Few White Lies)

Author: Justina Chen Headley
Reading Level: 7th-9th

Pages: 256
Publisher: Little, Brown
Edition: Hardcover, 2006

I had to try twice to finish this book. During the first attempt, I got SO annoyed by the piled-on, not-always-so-clever, made-me-cringe similies and metaphors (dried shitake mushroom of a heart?) that I simply had to put it down. I couldn't believe that the author was getting away with such a case of over-writing syndrome.

However, since I had to read it for the Asian Pacific American Award of Literature, I braced myself to continue reading. Gradually, I accepted that this habit of overusing figures of speech belongs not to the author but to the narrator, who is both an over-achiever and someone who does not recognize her own strengths. Lots of humor and cultural references (although they can be somewhat stereotypical) - both realistic and with quite a bit of exaggeration make the book eventually an entertaining read, albeit a bit of a mess in plot twists and tangents. But, hey, a half-half Taiwanese-White American girl whose father went absentee when she was just a tot, whose mother is pushy and demanding, whose brother just got into Harvard, and whose first love turns out to bit quite a jerk, is nothing short of a messy situation.

Labels: , , , ,