Thursday, January 31, 2008

What Happened to Cass McBride by Gail Giles

The latest by Gail Giles is a thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat with enough twists to keep everyone engaged in this story. Cass McBride seems to have it all - grades, being a great "R.P" (resumé packer), and a student of her father who could talk his way into or out of any situation. She will need that skill to survive being buried alive by Kyle, the brother of David who was in her history class and recently committed suicide. Narrated by the investigating officer, Cass, and Kyle Kirby, her captor, the book slowly unveils the connection between them all including the note that is pinned to David's hanging body - "Words are teeth, and they eat me alive. Feed on my corpse instead." Definitely a gripping read.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

"I, Deanna Lambert belong to no one and no one belongs to me. I don't know what to do."
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr is the masterfully told story of Deanna whose life has been defined since she was 13 as the girl who was caught in the backseat of Tommy Webber's car by her father. Add to that the fact that her father hasn't really spoken to her in 3 years as he deals with his disdain of her actions as well as his shortcomings. To further add to the dysfunctional Lambert family, her brother and best friend, Darren, has married Stacy and is now the father of baby April. They live in the basement of Deanna's parent's home. During the summer of the story, Deanna must again face the repercussions of her action and come to terms with those around her. Working at a pizza restaurant, she also must confront Tommy again. With a resolve to get her life on track she examines her relationships with her brother, her best friend, Lee, and her loyal friend, Jason.
The voice in this book will ring true with teen readers. It is a wonderful read.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Good German by Joseph Kanon

Set against the backdrop of the Potsdam Conference at Schloss Cecelienhof, The Good German is a spy thriller, mystery, and a love story all at the same time. The characters are intricately drawn and the city of Berlin described in a way that you can see the horror left as the aftermath of war. The book commences as Jake Geismar arrives in Berlin to cover the conference. There is an ulterior motive - to find Lena, his former lover. In Potsdam he witnesses a body being washed ashore - an American soldier and from that point he is on a mission to find out the murderer. The investigation leads him to Professor Brandt, Lena's father-in-law and ultimately to Emil, Lena's husband, a scientist who is working with Werner von Braun building rockets.
The book was a bit slow to start, but once you figured out the characters and their inter-relationships, it became a page-turner. There are some thrilling chase scenes, some very heated romantic scenes, and a bit of comedy at times. The depiction of the rally after VJ day with Patton, Truman and Churchhill puts the reader in the midst of Berlin where there is distrust among the allies. One comes away with the realization that there were choices men and women had to make that were not easy and fraught with moral dilemmas and the question that begs to be answered - who were or was the "good German."

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann

While touring Germany in 2002, this books was hailed as the ultimate German story. I bought it upon returning home and always meant to read it. The length demanded dedication to the read and I must admit I felt it would be dry and a difficult read. Spurred by the reading list for our Burgen und Berge Honors trip, I tackled it during Christmas vacation and I am so sorry that I had not read it sooner. I didn't want to put it down and was sorry that it had ended. The story of the Buddenbrooks family begins in 1835 and continues to the book's end in 1876. Mann is incredible as he characterizes the members of the family. His descriptions are magnificent and you immediately can picture them all in your mind. Johann (Jean) becomes the ultimate patriarch with a devotion to the well-lived life. Elisabeth, his wife, upon his death assumes the role as mentor, and devoted matriarch. Their children, Tony, Tom, Christian, and Clara all have happy and sad times in their lives. We struggle with them as they celebrate the good and bad times. The detail that Mann gives us - of Christmas on Meng Strasse, a Prussian school or the summer at Travem√ľnde - allows the reader to be a part of his work. It will not soon be forgotten.