This Week in Reviews: August 16, 2011

FICTION

5Q 5P S

Palma, Felix J. The Map of Time. Atria/Simon & Schuster. 624p. $26. 978-1-4391-6739-7.

Readers will jump easily into The Map of Time, especially as the first sentence has one of the main characters selecting a gun with which to kill himself—but the decision is not easy (for many reasons), and soon Andrew finds himself time traveling to the home of H.G. Wells himself to “investigate purported incidents of time travel and to save lives and literary classics.” Felix J. Palma has created a gripping historical fantasy that mingles fictional characters with real ones in Victorian London, and has created a real sense of time travel for 21st-century readers. This is Palma’s first work to be translated into English, and it has been a hit in the United Kingdom.

The book is divided into three parts, each almost a separate novel.  Each has a different flavor, story, and hero. Each part also picks up threads from the others, and if readers think they know what is going on in one section, the next is sure to turn everything upside down.  This thick tome (coming in at just over six hundred pages) is a thrilling page-turner—from Victorian England to Jack the Ripper to missing moments by mere seconds, teens (and adults alike) will be intrigued by the lyrical storytelling and the extreme attention to detail that glues together this intense thriller which asks the question: What happens if we change history?—Ria Newhouse.

3Q 3P M J

Schmatz, Pat. Bluefish. Candlewick, 2011. 240p. $15.99. 978-0-7636-5334-7.

Travis is dealing with a lot of changes: moving from the country to town, losing his beloved hound Rosco, adjusting to his alcoholic grandfather’s quest for sobriety.  Eighth grade in a new school is hard enough without the strain of concealing the fact that he cannot read.  He thinks of himself as a “bluefish,” the nickname of the lowest reading group in elementary school.  Travis’s life, however, takes a new turn when he meets a quirky girl who calls herself Velveeta and who has some secrets of her own.  When he rescues brainiac Bradley from some bullies, loner Travis suddenly finds himself with two friends.  Add a compassionate and creative reading teacher, and things just may be looking up.

The author skillfully alternates between Velveeta’s letters to a deceased neighbor and third-person narration of Travis’s experiences.  Teachers and librarians will appreciate the positive portrayal of their fictional counterparts. The frequent, enticing mention of book titles and authors may send some readers to the shelves for more.  This quiet book centers on personal and interpersonal development rather than action.  Struggling students who could handle the straightforward text may find the lack of excitement a deterrent.  The sheer number of issues (Velveeta’s dysfunctional family, Travis’s multiple losses, Bradley’s experiences as the school’s only black student) means that some serious questions receive only cursory treatment. Velveeta’s favorite title, The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (Knopf 2006/VOYA June 2006), offers able readers another, more dynamic character who perseveres to master the world of words.—Kathleen Beck.

3Q 4P J S

Seifert, Christine. The Predicteds. Sourcebooks, 2011. 352p. $9.99 Trade pb. 978-1-4022-6049-0.

Daphne Wright’s first day in Quiet, Oklahoma, is anything but quiet. After she vomits from new-school jitters, she is trapped in a closet as a shooter enters her classroom. Saved by Jesse, a heroic classmate, Daphne feels an immediate connection with him.  In the wake of the shooting, Quiet High decides to make public student personality profiles from a computer program that Daphne’s mother invented. The program, PROFILE, reveals which students will likely commit a crime or display problematic behavior. When another student attack occurs, these “Predicteds,” including Jesse, are segregated from other students. Daphne’s conflicted feelings about these procedures come to a head when a third attack occurs.

Seifert’s central question—can personality tests predict, or even influence, future behavior—creates a fascinating conflict for teens to explore. Her prose is smooth, and Daphne succeeds as a flawed character whose conscience eventually overrules the herd mentality, and allows her to make her own decisions about Jesse.  Seifert’s execution, however, does not always match the creative premise. The first person narration switches abruptly from scene to scene, making it difficult to follow the story without careful attention. It also seems obvious that Jesse is Predicted and that the school overlooked the true culprit. Nevertheless, Daphne’s thoughts on the Predicted and her rocky relationship with Jesse will interest teens and make for a great discussion topic. Buy this title where dystopian literature is popular.—Caitlin Augusta.

SCIENCE FICTION/HORROR/FANTASY

4Q 3P J S

Hall, Teri. Away: The Line, Book 2. Dial/Penguin, 2011. 240p. $16.99. 978-0-8037-3502-6.

All fifteen-year-old Rachel has known for the past dozen years is life on The Property of Ms. Moore, where Rachel’s widowed mother still grieves for her husband, Daniel, killed in The War. Generations ago, nuclear bombs had separated the Unified States from Away, that area caught in the fallout and separated by The Line, an invisible barrier that can only be penetrated at a few locations with a special card key. In this sequel to The Line (Penguin, 2010/VOYA June 2010), which ended abruptly with Rachel making contact with a young Other (Pathik) from Away, she has now Crossed with medicine for Pathik’s father, Malgram. It is a dangerous mission as a nearby tribe of Roberts are only kept at bay by the evolutionary “mental gifts” of the Others which can serve as weapons. Once all the intertwined family connections are sorted out—Ms. Moore is Pathik’s grandmother, Rachel’s father is being held prisoner by the Roberts—a new rescue mission is put into place as the Others consider a move to a legendary island which may be safer.

Hall’s imaginative dystopian world takes the concepts of good vs. evil and modern vs. primitive into fresh territory with plenty of comparisons to today’s world. For readers reluctant to dip into science fiction, this adventure is an engaging place to start. While it is not necessary to start with The Line, it would help fill out the details, and at the conclusion of Away, readers will find themselves eagerly hoping for a third installment.—Beth Andersen.

2Q 3P J S

Hunter, C. C. Awake at Dawn: A Shadow Falls Novel. St. Martin’s Press, 2011. 400p. $9.99. Trade pb. 978-0-312-62468-2.

While staying at Shadow Falls Camp for teens with supernatural powers, Kylie Galen hopes to discover what type of paranormal being she is becoming. Her witch and vampire best friends try to help her figure it out, but they have trouble controlling their own powers. On top of that, a rogue vampire is stalking the camp; a bleeding ghost is begging Kylie to save an unnamed girl; and Kylie is caught between the attentions of a fairy and a werewolf. Through it all she must hide the camp’s real purpose from her friends and family back home while staying true to herself.

This second book in the Shadow Falls series provides an array of paranormal characters, but none of them are very well developed or believable. Kylie’s best friends bicker more than confide in each other, and the jealousy between Kylie and the two boys is generic and familiar. Stage directions and minute details inhibit the story’s forward movement and tension. Many of the word choices and conversations between the friends strain to sound like teen voices, like the multiple references to the sizes of the girls’ boobs and butts, and dated phrases like, “Not.” Steer paranormal romance fans to titles like Other by Karen Kincey (Flux, 2010) and Evermore by Alyson Noel (St. Martin’s Press, 2009/VOYA February 2009) instead.—Deena Lipomi.

3Q 4P J

Tanigawa, Nagaru. The Rampage of Haruhi Suzumiya. Little, Brown, 2011. 240p. $8.99 Trade pb. 978-0-316-03884-3.

This fifth volume of the Haruhi Suzumiya series is three short stories. Kyon, a high school freshman in Japan, again narrates the adventures of the extraordinary Haruhi. Haruhi can bend reality to her will. The SOS Brigade—made up of Kyon, an average human, the time-traveling Mikuru, the esper Itsuki, and Yuki, an alien—must watch Haruhi and attempt to keep her happy and stable and ignorant of her godlike powers. In “Endless Eight,” Haruhi herds her friends through a list of must-do summer activities in the final days of vacation. The computer society challenges the SOS Brigade to a video game contest in “The Day of Sagittarius.”  “Snowy Mountain Syndrome” has the SOS Brigade trapped in a mysterious mansion during a blizzard.

Haruhi is a fascinating character. Her personality is a force of nature unto itself, literally. These light novels are wildly popular in Japan, and have been adapted into many formats, including manga, televised anime, animated film, and multiple video games. This series is a cultural phenomenon, but this particular book is rather weak. The translation into English is uneven; there are large plot holes, and the gaming story has tedious amounts of detail. The book does not stand alone; readers must have read the other volumes or they will be confused.  This is, however, a significant series, and any library with fans of Japanese literature, manga, or anime should own this book, in spite of its shortcomings.—Heather Pittman.

PROFESSIONAL

American Library Association. ALA Guide to Economics & Business Reference.  American Library Association, 2011. 528p. $65. Oversize pb. 978-0-8389-1024-5.

Part of the ALA Guide to Reference series, this guide follows the same fairly exhaustive annotated format of print and online resources.  Because it is meant for libraries in North America, the majority of resources cited are in English.  The guide’s 1,380 entries are divided into sections on basic industry information, company information, economic conditions and world trade, functional areas of business, general works, occupations and careers, regional economic sources, and specialized industry information.   There is also an index that is cross-referenced which makes the guide easier to search.  Each entry begins with bibliographic information, including, in most cases, both the Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress classification numbers, and has separate subsections for book reviews, dictionaries, reviews of research, etc., within the sections.

This guide is predominately geared for use in college and research libraries, as well as large public libraries where the materials mentioned could be accessed.  Although many other titles in the series are useful in school libraries, in these times of shrinking school budgets, this title has little applicability in any high school other than, perhaps, a business magnet with either a generous materials budget or a partnership with a local university or business library to access its collection.—Sue Roush.

Hakala-Ausperk, Catherine. Be A Great Boss: One Year to Success. American Library Association, 2011. 252p. $50. Oversize pb. 978-0-8389-1068-9. Intro. Suggested Reading. Notes. Biblio. Index.

Broken down by week and month, this workbook takes readers through a year of “boss” training. The areas of study are tailored specifically to library management. This includes examining attitude, staffing, communication, funding, training, and other essential roles that managers and directors play in libraries. The methodical lessons are straightforward, with an emphasis on interpersonal skills and relationship-building. Despite their simplicity, these lessons are thought-provoking and include a worksheet and a few reading recommendations at the end of each week. Areas that are more process-oriented, like planning and funding, will likely require more reading and training, but these lessons provide a strong starting point.

Ideal for beginning managers, this book might also prove a nice refresher for experienced managers. With so many topics to cover, this will not answer every question, but it might help professionals get a handle on areas of management they have not examined before. The tone is friendly and the pace manageable for self-study. Pieces could also be used in group training.  This professional reference is recommended for any type of library.—Brenna Shanks.

SERIES NONFICTION

Nutrition and Health. Lucent /Gale, 2011. 80p. PLB $30.85. Glossary. Index. Further Reading.

4Q 3P M J S

Juettner, Bonnie. Diet and Disease. 978-1-4205-0269-5.
Woog, Adam. Food Myths and Facts. 978-1-4205-0270-1.

From the series Nutrition And Health, Diet And Disease and Food Myths and Facts detail information about how teens and other readers can use basic steps to take charge of their health. Major topics discussed in the books include eating habits, exercise, heart diseases, diabetes, and more. Each chapter is dedicated to a specific topic.  For instance, one chapter on exercise showed how including a workout routine as a part of healthy living can reduce risks of certain diseases and increase longevity. Nutrition facts in sidebars on various pages throughout the books also offer quick statistical information on topics discussed.

Generally, the information provided is very useful and timely, especially with obesity and overweight being on the rise. The information presented is clear and concise and will be valuable as a nutrition lesson aid for teenagers or just for personal knowledge on diet and health. Additionally, the glossary and index sections make it easy for readers to find specific topics discussed. Complimentary pictures are included throughout the books, yet they could have been more inclusive as they do not speak to a diverse group of readers.—Nicola McDonald.

Perspectives on Modern World History.  Greenhaven Press, 2010. PLB $39.70. Charts. Chronology. Glossary. Index. Illus. Maps. Photos.

5Q 3P S

Hay, Jeff, Ed. The Crisis in Darfur. 224p. 978-0-7377-5257-1.

Immell, Myra, Ed. The Cuban Missile Crisis. 172p. 978-0-7377-5005-8.

The series Perspectives on Modern World History offers readers an immense amount of information on historical events ranging from the Great Depression to the Rwandan Genocide. Each volume is characterized by a comprehensive, easy-to-read background, as well as multiple perspectives on the events, culled from primary and secondary sources, including first-person accounts of those who experienced the event themselves.  Perhaps the greatest strength of these volumes is their presentation of differing viewpoints on history, illustrating that all history is open to some degree of interpretation.  The Crisis in Darfur offers viewpoints that debate the nature of genocide, as well as the role of the Sudan, the United States, and the world community in ending the violence in that region.  For readers who wish for a deeper look into the events, each volume contains lists of related books, periodicals, and web sites.   In The Cuban Missile Crisis, the editor has paired articles that disagree on the level of danger surrounding the 1962 standoff with Cuba, as well as the intentions of the Soviet Union in placing missiles on the island in the first place.

These volumes provide a wealth of accessible information for teachers and students, which would perhaps be better appreciated by older students, due not only to the depth of background information, but also to the way the series can spark debate around historical events.  These titles show that history can never be presented with one unified voice, and that even with events in the distant past, the stories are still unfolding.—Mark Letcher.

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