Category Archives: Books

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

reviewed by Elvira Sanchez Kisser, Woodburn Public Library


A story told in a form of a college personal essay about the  journey of “Harry,” Harbinger Robert Francis Jones, the kid who was almost struck by lighting, his struggles to live with his scars, his trouble finding friendship, and  eventually learning to find solace in music. Harry navigates through school being bullied because of his scars and lives a life of solitude. Until the day comes when he is befriended by Johnny, the good looking athlete, who becomes his first friend and teaches him about friendship, betrayal, and acceptance. Even though the idea of starting a band wasn’t his, Harry learns to find salvation and confidence through creating and performing music which changes him forever.
Harry’s story is told through a series of short chapters with song headings providing a theme and a great soundtrack for those who know the music. The story is set in the 1980’s so the music will probably not be familiar to most teens of this generation, given that many are fairly obscure songs to begin with. Those that are interested in music may take the time to look up the music online, but I fear for many they will ignore the references. Though the story has many musical references, the story is about Harry living with his physical and emotional scars from being burned as a child and learning how others react to him, such as his dad calling him a “toaster”. Vlahos peppers his writing with geeky references to Star Wars and Star Trek, decision making lists, and fantasy scenarios that bring a lightheartedness to some of the more serious scenes, such as getting bullied or getting over a broken heart. Overall an engaging story for teens and adults alike that will provide a glimpse of why people form bands and what music can mean for these people.

Reviewing Books

I have set myself a Reading Challenge for 2012 in GoodReads for 100 books. I know I can accomplish this since I read 105 books last year and I do read a lot of variety including young adult, graphic novels, fiction of all genres, some non-fiction, and listen to fair amount of audiobooks. Yes, I include audiobooks, though I have gone back many a time and read the book after listening to them in order to take a bit more time in enjoying the words. A few that I have done this with have been Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series and Shades of Grey and I already want to read Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy. Both of these series use the page and text formatting and play on words in their stories, which are lost in the audio version.

Continue reading Reviewing Books

Where not to put security

I understand the need for security on merchandising, but could you please not put the tags on the pages of the books!

Tag in center of book
And the second tag at the back.
And a nice tag with the acknowledgments page


2011 Reading

The end of the year is near and its time to review. This year I have been diligently recording the books I have read in GoodReads and was astonished when I checked my stats to find out that I have recorded 101 reads this year with a whopping 29,894 pages. Of course there are discrepancies, like books that I did not finish, but made a good effort to read (6), a picture book I was reviewing as a Early Reviewer for LibraryThing (1), and the audio books I listen to while commuting to work (12). Regardless, still a valiant effort. I have noticed that with the increase of reading also comes the increase of lower stars: 18-two stars (OK books) and 7-one star (I didn’t like).

My longest book read was The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist at 760 pages. And my all time favorite read was The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel.



Genre Seperation, just keep it simple

I’ve been researching fantasy and science fiction genres in fiction in order to develop means of promoting this genre to our library patrons reading and have been referencing Integrated Advisory Service edited by Jessica E. Moyer, along with other online sources. I find the book helpful for genres I know little about like mystery and romance, by dividing the genres by types of plots, characters, and subgenres. The book also gives series and titles to introduce new readers to these genres, which is helpful. The more I investigate the genre pools, the more I feel that the best integrated service we could provide is by not dividing our genre sections. Continue reading Genre Seperation, just keep it simple

13th Tale a passive read

I’m currently reading The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield for my monthly book club and have been boggled by my unenthusiastic response to reading a book I had suggested. From the description of the story about a amateur biographer being unexpectedly asked to write the biography of a famous popular author, Vida Winter and in return you find out about dark family secrets of her life growing up on a family estate. This was one of the suggestions for our Halloween read, for a group with a member who easily frights from more scary readings, which I thought would be atmospheric in the telling. Unfortunately, the atmosphere is lacking and in it’s place are clinical descriptions of places, people, and feelings, if you can call it feelings, rather than just questions to suggest feelings.

I have noticed that instead of getting sucked into the telling of this story, I am able to casually skim the contents and still get the full idea of the story. I am a very visual reader and I enjoy allowing the writing of a story to engulf my senses and carry me off on a journey that doesn’t end after I set the book down. I enjoy mulling over the plot, characters, and scenarios crafted in the story long after I have finished reading the book pondering the ‘What ifs…”, alternative endings, or extended scenes that may have been left out. For me, reading and watching movies is a very similar experience when done well. So, when a book is technically descriptive rather than using words to evoke atmosphere, mood, feeling, and place; I feel insulted that the author doesn’t allow me some part of the reading experience and am regulated to a passive reading experience.

What I wonder at, is a passive reading experience what most people want? This book has been not only on the NY Bestseller list (which I know doesn’t really mean much anymore), but has been recommended by several libraries and booksellers as a “Bookclub Choice” book. I haven’t had my bookclub meeting yet, but it will be interesting to hear their take on the book and if they were aware of the writing as much as me.

Wordstock Experience

Every year my husband and I like to attend Portland’s literary conference Wordstock. This year, I was only able to attend the Sunday conference due to work conflicts, but was still able to attend a few interesting panel discussion and listen to new authors readings.

The most interesting panel discussion was one that I had low expectations and became the best discussion I heard all day, What’s with America’s Sexual/Literary Hang-up? The panel was moderated by Viva Las Vegas, author of Magic Gardens: The Memoirs of Viva Las Vegas, with authors Steve Almond, Cheryl Strayed, and Lidia Yuknavitch.

I think what helped this panel in being so interesting was the insightful questions posed by Viva Las Vegas that kept the dialogue moving between serious and funny at all times. At one instance the panelists discussed how they have had to handle censoring words in their books for publishers/editors or even book buyers; to what their turns them on. Though I do feel another reason this panel was so interesting is that these authors have had to justify their works many times and their use of sex in their writings and through this process they have had to think about this topic more often than most and how it affects their end product.

Our next panel discussion was Move Over, Holden Caufield which was moderated by John Corey Whaley and included authors Blake Nelson, Jen Violi, and Anna Solomon. This panel was to discuss the “coming-of-age” story and it’s appeal. As I said from the previous panel, a good moderator goes a long way to a successful panel, unfortunately the questions posed by John didn’t always spur our authors to ready answers, which I don’t specifically view as soley John’s fault. I also think that in this situation, most of these authors haven’t really thought intensely on the genre in which they write in. So on a whole, this panel was mostly a digression on what they like about teens and writing about them. Continue reading Wordstock Experience

Top 10 Influential Books

I had a young patron ask for book  recommendations that would “make me think.” This got me thinking about the books I discovered on my own and read as a teenager that influenced me in becoming the person I am today. So here’s my top ten list in no particular order:

  1. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  2. The Stranger – Albert Camus
  3. The Wall and other stories  – Jean-Paul Sarte
  4. The Trial – Franz Kafka
  5. Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  6. The Lover – Margueritte Duras
  7. Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  8. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  9. “I have no mouth and I must scream” – Harlan Ellison
  10. The Turn of the Screw – Henry James

I will say there were books that were on the mandatory reading lists such as 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell, The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee.

There are a few books that I read later in life which I think should also get a mention, but either weren’t written when I was young or I didn’t know about them:

  • Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
  • Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgako
  • Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami
  • Lolita – Vladimir Nabakov
  • The Hearing Trumpet – Leonora Carrington

A World of Unseen Magic

Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness This is a spellbinding novel of magic, devotion, bravery, and destiny. When Diana Bishop examines an ancient and enchanted alchemical manuscript, she attracts the attention of numerous magical creatures (some benign, some unsavory, and some downright vicious), including 1,500-year-old vampire Matthew Clairmont. This is the first book of a planned trilogy and I cannot wait for the next one! I loved this book. –Christine Continue reading A World of Unseen Magic