Monday, February 16, 2009


Kidnapped is by Robert Louis Stevenson. The rousing tale of young David Balfour set in Scotland during the 1750s. After the death of his father David sets out to find his way in life. He seeks out his uncle only to be sold into slavery on a ship bound for the colonies. His journey of treachery and deceit takes him through the highlands of Scotland and through many dangerous adventures until he finally claims his heritage. David's coming of age and into his inheritance is a tribute to his character and perseverance through many trails. Although Stevenson's language can be a challenge for modern readers this exciting tale is worth the effort.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Awakening

The Awakening is by Kate Chopin. This short book is a key component of many college reading lists. It was a shocking story when it came out in 1899, today it is much less so. It is the story of Edna Pontellier, the wife of a social climbing husband in 1890s New Orleans. During the summer the family vacations on Grand Island like others of their class. Her husband returns to the city during the week leaving Edna to socialize with others on the island. There she meets Robert Lebrun and her moral, personal, and sensual journey of development begin. Trapped in a boring marriage in a society with a very rigid set of social rules, Edna seeks to find herself. I recommend a critical edition that explains the various French Creole words and phrases used in the story.

Ratings: 12th grade - 8 out of 10 - MC (mature thematic content).

Montmorency & the Assassins: Master Criminal Spy

Montmorency & the Assassins: Master Criminal Spy is by Eleanor Updale. The third book in the Montmorency saga continues the tale begun in the second book. Montmorency & George head to Italy to trace some stolen museum pieces only to find themselves involved in stopping an underground plot to bring down the crowned heads of Europe. When George's nephew Frank finds himself involved in the murderous political plot, Montmorency, Farcett, Vi, and Tom travel to America with Frank. The ending is sad and the story has some unexpected plot twists. It sets up the fourth book very well. If you like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, you will thoroughly enjoy Updale's writing.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10 - MC (a little more mature content than previous books).

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood

Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood is by Koren Zailckas. This is a true story of a young girl's descent into alcoholism and her ultimate struggle for recovery. At 24, after a decade of drinking, blackouts, brushes with comas, date rape, and suicide Koren tells her tale. Into her gut-wrenching memoir she weaves statistics from various studies on alcoholism among the young. Her chilling story is, unfortunately, all too commonplace. The language is laced with extreme profanity, and the situations she finds herself in are graphically described. It is not a read for the faint of heart, but it is a tale that young women need to hear, especially since drinking among young women is on the rise nationally. A brutal tale that I'm afraid all too many will relate to.

Ratings: 12th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - S (non-graphic sexual references).