Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review: Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

Bill Konigsberg’s Openly Straight is a refreshingly honest and hilarious look into the life and mind of a highly realistic character, Rafe Goldberg. Rafe is an openly gay high school student from Boulder, Colorado. He has very supportive hippy parents and his best friend, Claire Olivia. His mother is the president of PFLAG and Rafe even goes to other schools to talk about tolerance and his experience. But Rafe starts to find his sexual orientation confining, and decides that he doesn’t want to be known as “that gay guy” anymore.

We pick up the story as Rafe transfers to an all-boys school in New England, where he decides that he will be “openly straight”. He doesn’t see it as going back in the closet, but rather an opportunity to just be Rafe. On his first day, he makes friends with the school jocks, something he had only be able to wonder about doing back in Boulder.  Rafe feels that he is finally being accepted for himself, not his sexual orientation. But being openly straight becomes more complicated as Rafe is forced to lie to his new friends and the person he cares about most, Ben. Openly Straight is thought-provoking, while maintaining a level of humor and cheekiness that kept me laughing and eagerly turning the next page.

Bill Konigsberg is the winner of the 2008 Lambda Literary Award in the LGBT Children’s/Young Adult category for Out of the Pocket, his debut novel, and is a fellow Arizonan, living in Chandler, AZ with his partner, Chuck and their Australian Labradoodle, Mabel.  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Book Review: Gravity by Melissa West

What I liked about this book is that the aliens are interesting and different.  Ok, of course, they are different but these have some unique features and characteristics plus they need humans to continue living.   Good descriptions make it even more interesting.  Gravity by Melissa West is a Taking Novel which refers to Ancients (aliens) taking from humans the substance they need to live.  Humans are required to wear a sleeping mask during this process and must not peek. 

Ari, the heroine is especially talented in warfare and trained in Special Ops by her father.  As an alien spy Jackson wants to learn all he can from her and other humans.  At the same time Ari and Jackson are trying to prevent a war between the Ancients and humans.  Ari will do what she can even if she must betray her father.  The planet Loge needs the  earth and its people. 

I am looking forward to the second book Hover and answers to many questions that came to mind. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Book Review: TFOB Author Matt de la Pena's March which means it's time once again for the Tucson Festival of Books! We've got a bunch of great authors coming and I'm particularly excited about Matt de la Pena. This California native made his writing debut with the book "Ball Don't Lie," which came out in 2005, and was promptly turned into a movie with Ludacris and Nick Cannon. Since then he's published three other great books: "I Will Save You," "We Were Here," and "Mexican White Boy."  You'll be able to see him both Saturday and Sunday throughout the day. Check the TFOB website for his schedule.  

His newest release, "The Living," is the start of an adventure series. Don't be fooled by the cover! It totally looks like a survival book but it's not! It's actually more of mystery/thriller/adventure type of book. Yes, there is a massive earthquake that destroys the West coast and a tsunami that casts all the characters adrift but that's only a small portion of the book. The book actually revolves eighteen-year-old Shy who decides a job on a cruise ship will be a fun and cool way to earn some money to help out his family. (Sunshine, parties, and swimsuit-clad hotties sounds like the best job ever.)  Then suddenly one night a drunk passenger, ranting confusedly, jumps off of the ship. Shy, who was there and tried to save the man, finds himself haunted by his death. Then a mysterious man starts asking questions about the suicide and rooms start getting ransacked. Why did that man jump? What does it have to do with Shy? More importantly, can Shy survive what's to come?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Book Review: The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

Harbinger: somebody or something that announces something: somebody or something that foreshadows or anticipates a future event

Meet Harbinger Jones (aka Harry), a new hero of mine. Harry has a LOT to work out: bullies, lightening,
pain, a punk rock band, disfigurement, girls, the future. In Scar Boys, a story in the guise of a
college admission letter, we hear about his short but trauma-filled life and how he deals. Well, at
first he does not deal...

Even though he has a LOT of therapy, Harry can’t get past his appearance.
Even after he befriends Johnny and the pair successfully starts a punk rock band, he is still hung up on his
appearance and how it limits his life. Of course, Harry needs to discover that the real limiter is himself.
Another horrifying tragedy looms. Will Harry open his eyes?

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos is a great story about friendship, the power of music, and finding your way.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Book Review: A Midsummer Night's Scream by R.L. Stine

R.L. Stine's latest teen horror novel is called A Midsummer Night's Scream.  I loved the cover and the morbidly whimsical title immediately.  Fortunately, the title is completely accurate, as the book is a contemporary horror story with a little inspiration from the Bard: and her best friend Delia are high school students, and they finally caught their Hollywood acting break!  The catch is that it's a remake of a horror film from the 60s, and production on the original film was halted due to a series of deadly accidents.  The rumor is that the set is cursed, and what could be better publicity for a horror film than an actual curse!  But with Shakespearean love triangles left and right, a little bit of misplaced magic, and the occasional gruesome accident, mayhem ensues.  But this is not the merry mayhem of a Shakespearean comedy; this is horrifying.

When I was in elementary school, I absolutely devoured R.L. Stine's Goosebumps books. I have no idea how many I read, but I'm pretty sure it was every single one on the shelf at my local library. And then last year at the Tucson Festival of Books, I got to actually meet Mr. Stine himself! I was surprised at how humble and funny he was. Who expects the horror author to be funny? But he was. Come to find out, before he was R.L. Stine, he was Jovial Bob Stine and he wrote funny books for kids. On his website,, I saw that he began his career as a comedy writer in 1965, and didn't become a horror writer until 1986! He wrote a teen horror novel called Blind Date, and the rest is history. In just two weeks you too can meet Mr. Stine at the Tucson Festival of Books, and ask him about how he accidentally became a horror writer.  He's scheduled at 10:30 and 2:30 on Saturday, and 10am on Sunday.  Find his schedule here.

Happy reading!
~ gothbrarian