Monday, February 14, 2011

Close to Famous

Close to Famous
By Joan Bauer
Viking, 2011. 250 pgs. Middle grade/Teen fiction

Twelve-year-old Foster and her mother hightail it out of Memphis when Huck, Foster's mom's Elvis-impersonator boyfriend, gets violent. They wind up in Culpepper, West Virginia where Foster works toward her dream of being a famous baker and conquering the world one cupcake at a time. Besides selling cupcakes--and practicing for the TV show she'd like to have on the Food Network someday, she also becomes involved in the town, making friends with Macon, who wants to make documentaries and who works for Miss Charleena, a former Hollywood star hiding out after a painful divorce, and Garland, a runner, whose mother, aptly named Perseverance, is determined to keep the local church from being sold.

I love Joan Bauer! I love her books, and I was delighted by her newest offering. This book features an unforgettable cast of characters; I loved them all (except horrible Huck, of course.) Foster's struggles are moving and inspiring, and her cupcakes sound delicious! This book made me laugh out loud in places, tugged at my heart in others, and left me with a big smile on my face. The only complaint I have is that now I'll have to wait a couple of years for Bauer to publish another book!

Five stars!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Five Flavors of Dumb

Five Flavors of Dumb
By Anthony John
Dial Books, 2010. 337 pgs. Teen fiction

High schooler Piper isn't a likely pick to the be the manager for the local teen Battle of the Bands winning bad--for one thing, she's not exactly popular, and for another, she's deaf. Yet, a turn of events lands her in exactly that position and she has one month to find the band a paying gig, which turns out to be more difficult than expected, since the band members all have their distinct flavors: there's self-absorbed Josh, tough girl Tash, pretty girl Kallie (who can't exactly play an instrument), nerdy Ed, and silent Will. Pulling this band together is more work than Piper anticipated but it also turns out to have more rewards than expected as well.

I really liked this book! When I first picked it up, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it or not; I'm definitely not a rock band fan, and there were places where the book ventured into talking about music greats that I frankly don't care about at all. However, this book was much more than a book about a high school band. Piper's struggles with her deafness and how that affects her feelings about herself and her interactions with others was an engaging topic; I liked Piper from page one and really enjoyed following her journey to figure out who she really wants to be and how she's going to manage a band. Side stories of her family interactions and a little romance rounded out the package, and I liked this book a lot more than just about anything else I've read recently. A little bit of language, but not enough to bother most readers.

Four and a half stars.