Monday, August 31, 2009


My apologies to David Bowie, but it worked perfectly for the title of this entry. Yes, readers, I've decided to make a few changes to "Novel News". Fear not! There will still be reviews for you to read, and of course, said reviews will still be written by yours truly. However, after doing this for over 2 1/2 years, I realize that it's not really novel news - it's just been reviews. No word about new books, nothing about publishing houses, no author-related tidbits, etc. Hmm..... why on earth, then, did I call this thing "Novel News"?

So I've decided to help you out, dear readers, and give you news of the book world. Sure, you could hit Amazon and probably find out a lot of the same info, but all they're going to give you is the facts. And they won't mention if a new book is something to be excited about, or if it's in a series (OK, they might tell you that!) - basically, they won't give you the personal touch that I'm going to start giving you. Stop reading like that - personal touch is not a bad thing! LOL!

Check back here tomorrow, and I promise to keep you up-to-date on all things literary. Really, I promise!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules" by Jeff Kinney

OK, I promised to stick with the wimpy kid, see if the second book was any better than the first, see if I could understand why all the kids like this series so much, etc. And yes, the second book is better than the first, although I still didn't think it was laugh-out-loud material.

Greg has survived the summer and is back in school. He still hangs out with his best friend Rowley and is still being tormented by his big brother, Roderick. Worse yet, he can't get Roderick in any sort of trouble because Roderick knows of a horrifying incident that occurred over the summer, something that Greg doesn't want anyone to know about. It would ruin what little reputation he has at school. It pretty much means that Greg is Roderick's slave until the secret is revealed or Greg can find some dirt on his big brother.

The book doesn't really have anything new in it. There's a party when the parents are away, which of course won't remain a secret forever. Greg tries to continue his torment of his baby brother, Manny, but everyone still thinks that everything Manny does is just super-cute. Rowley continues to be a bit on the dim side, but he's basically a good guy. And Greg? Well, Greg is still not what I would call a very nice kid. For example, one of the kids from the first book was supposed to move away during the summer. For reasons unknown, that never happened, so the kid is back at school this year. Greg decides to play a joke on him by acting as if the kid isn't there, asking if his friends heard anything when the kid speaks, acting as if he runs into an imaginary wall when he runs into the kid, etc. At first it's a bit funny, but Greg really does take it too far, encouraging his friends to keep up the joke (and practically the whole school gets into the act) for almost a week, by which time the kid is frantic and very angry. DUH! How would you feel if everyone acted like you weren't there? He gets to the point where he's screaming at his classmates that he IS there and he IS a human being, etc, leading to a visit to the Principal's office and an apology in front of the kid's parents. What's weird to me is that after all that, Greg and the kid are friends. WTF? I mean, I know it's been a long time since I've been in middle school (a long, long time.....) but I can't see just buddying up to someone who's been dissing me that much. Sigh.

Anyway, the cartoons are still kinda cute, and the story is OK. The ending was pretty good, as Roderick and his band, Loded Diper, perform in the school talent show with some surprisingly hysterical reactions. Overall, I guess I see why the kids like it. The adults aren't written to be very smart, which might be the big attraction. And yes, kids that age are cruel to each other, so maybe they enjoy reading about someone else getting theirs. Who knows?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Greg Heffley's Journal" by Jeff Kinney

Yes, this is a kid's book. I finally got the chance to snag this and take it home, interested in mining the depths of the thing for what made it so damn irresistible to the youngsters coming in here to the library. Seriously - we cannot keep this series on the shelf. All the kids want one of the "Wimpy Kid" books (there are 3 in the series thus far, with a fourth to be released this fall), and we've been placing reserves on them almost as often as we have the "Twilight" books. I wanted to know what the fascination was, and I wanted to know if I should be recommending them to the kids that hadn't seemed to fall under their spell yet, too.

For an adult, this isn't a bad little book. Funny at times, with cute stick-figure-type illustrations, and Greg's deadpan smart-ass remarks made it an easy hour or two read. Did I see what the kids love? Not really, not for myself. However, I think I see why the kids like it. Greg is a nerd, and he's just entered middle school. He thinks that school should be set up by size, rather than by age, because there are some kids in his school that are way bigger than him. And those kids like to taunt and torment him and his best friend Rowley. Not to mention he's not entirely sure he should be friends with Rowley anymore - the goof might be holding him back. But he needs Rowley when he's grounded from playing video games at his own house, so he'll keep hanging out with him.

Greg has two brothers, Roderick, who's older, and the baby brother, who Greg tries to pull Roderick's stunts on. His mom and dad seem pretty oblivious to a lot of the boys activities, unless they do something right under Dad's nose. There's a very cute illustration of when it's OK to screw up and when it's not - the one showing Dad is the "not" moment. The book pretty much follows Greg during his first year of middle school, with the usual youth angst.

Overall, the story was OK. Again, I wasn't overwhelmed by it, but I can see why the kids like it. Greg is searching for his place in middle school, trying to figure out who he should be. He's questioning his friends, his parents, pretty much everything. And I guess the kids might also enjoy the fact that Greg isn't very sympathetic; I found it a turn-off. He ignores the wishes and feelings of his family and friends, which is weird. Oh well, maybe it's just me.

I've got my reserve in for the second book, wondering if it's better and if I'll fall in love with the Wimpy Kid like my small patrons. I doubt it, but then again, first dates don't always show someone in the best light, do they?