Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart

The second in the MBS is a fun romp aimed for late grade-school readers. I really enjoy these books, but I don't see this as a contender. Nay

Bird Lake Moon by Kevin Henkes

Mitch and his mom come to stay with his grandparents on Bird Lake after his dad runs off with another woman. Spencer's parents own the house next door and haven't been there since Spencer's older brother drowned in the lake. But they return to see if they can face the memories. It is a nice book though not a whole lot happens. Mitch and Spencer are 10 and 12 years old and generally this book has a very young feel to it. I think a little too young for thumbs up. I vote nay.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dragon and Liberator by Timothy Zahn

This is #6 in Zahn's Dragonback adventures. I love this series. It is a great combination of story and action and this book is the series conclusion. Jack Morgan and his symbiot Drakos (Drakos lives as a tatoo on Jack though he can become three dimentional) rush to save the rest for DRakos's people, the K'da. They get captured and escape. And in the end, the Human/K'da bond that Jack and Drakos have, save them from a genicidal weapon. Having said that, this book was not my favorite in the series. Not enough story. I know this book can not stand on its own for the TU. I vote Nay.

Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi

After Miles Shaw goes to live with his Jazz playing father in New Orleans, Katrina strikes. When Miles' Uncle's car breaks down fleeing the city, they are left with seeking refuge in the Superdome. Miles and his dad grow closer as they survive under terrible conditions. I think this was an important book and a story that needed to be told but is was good not great. Some of the end seemed to be rushed. I vote nay for TU.

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

Book 4 in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. This story draws upon Minotaur/Labyrinth mythology. Percy and his friends have to travel through the labyrinth to find Daedulus in hopes of stopping Hermes' son Luke from building an army. It is lots of great fun and also has great teen appeal but I don't think it can stand alone. I vote nay for TU

The Surrender Tree: Poems of the Cuba's struggle to freedom by Margarita Engle

A Story told in free verse poems about Cuba's fight for independce over 50 years in the 1800s. Many of the characters are historical though little is known about their lives. One of the main characters, Rosa, is a former slave and works hidden in the country side as a nurse but many consider her a witch. She eventually becomes a folk hero. Nice book but not great. Not a lot of teen appeal. I vote nay for TU.

Blood Roses by Francesca Lia Block

This is a nice collection of short stories. (the title story had appeared in an earlier collection: Firebird). Some of the stories were stronger than others and most lightly sprinkled with some fantasy. The last two stories I thought were the weekest("Wounds and Wings" and "Changelings") This book didn't really stand out to me. None of the stories stayed with me long enough to give summaries of any of them. I vote Nay.

Peeled by Joan Bauer

Hildy is your average small town high school student who works on her school paper and dreams of journalism but still appreciates her town's apple industry. When mysterious things start happenning at the old spooky Ludlow house, she starts investigating. And the local 'adult' paper only seems to be adding wood to the flames of fear. Hildy and the rest of her friends from her high school paper are determined to get to the truth. Right now this is the best of what I've read so far. It was a good book, with some humor, suspence and a little romance. The mystery brings a smile to my face. so for now I vote yes.

First Daughter: White House Rules by Mitali Perkins

This a sequal to First Daughter: extreme makeover. Sameer is the daughter (adopted from Pakistan) of a woman who was just elected president. she is trying to adjust to living in the spot light while sneeking off on her own using a Burka she had pruchased from an ethnic store. but there is so much more to it. I did enjoy this book but I'm not sure how well it could stand on its own. A fun read and timely but I vote Nay for thumbs up.

Life Sucks by Jessica Abel, Gabe Soria, and Warren Pleece

Oh. Dear. God. Vampires working at a convenience store. The boss talking with a fake Transylvanian accent. So-so art and not a lot of plot. NAY.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Snow Falling in Spring by Moying LI

Hmmmm. This is a true account of a young woman growing up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. In many ways it reminded me of Red Scarf Girl, although the protagonist ages to 26 years, so it has more teen appeal. I think it is fascinating and timely, but I didn't get yanked in by the story. Maybe, leaning toward Nay.

Dingo by Charles de Lint

I'm not sure if this is his best work, but it is a darn good entry. Miguel falls for a beautiful girl he meets at his father's comic shop. Lainey is exotic and exciting, but her constant watchdog, Em, seems to hate him. On top of that his archnemesis is stalking them and Miguel's dreams are leading him further into Lainey's strange life.
I've not read much by de Lint, but this made me hungry for more. I don't know if it is timeless, but it certainly is exciting and entertaining. High maybe.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Quick re-cap: Aliens have invaded the earth and won. They take over peoples bodies as home for their "souls". Wanderer finds that she is sharing space with Melanie, the body owner who won't go away. Melanie makes her look for lost mate Jared. Both souls love Jared. Strange alien love triangle ensues.
I love Twilight. I am a big NAY for The Host. I really wish her marketing team would stop trying to crank out as many bestsellers as possible and allow her to finesse her writing.

Shift by Jennifer Bradbury

Shift is one of the best teen books I have read in a while. Told in alternating present and retrospective episodes, Chris details the cross-country road trip he took with best friend, Win. The trip ends badly and Win ended up leaving Chris on his own in the far west. When Win never returns home, his powerful father sends the FBI to track Chris and find out what happened.
The writing is really powerful (especially for a debut) and the story is gripping. I think this will have good teen appeal for the full range of ages. Hearty YAY from me.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson

Jenna wakes up from a coma and discovers that she has no memory of the past year. Things are decidedly strange in her new home, her parents are desperate for her to remember the "jenna" she was, her grandmother seems to hate her, and she can't figure out why they are hidden away in a small California town instead of home in Massachusetts. In a sci-fi thriller-ish way, Jenna finds that she is not the person she used to be and that her parents are responsible for criminal actions.
As I read this, I was heavily reminded of Eva by Peter Dickinson. I think Jenna will have great teen appeal, but I didn't find the writing to be all that remarkable. It gets a maybe from me. I'm anxious to hear what others think.

The Missing Girl by Norma Fox Mazer

The Hubert girls: Beauty, Mim, Stevie, Fancy, and Autumn (ages 17-11) each have distinct personalities. Their family is low on money, their father has been hurt and can't work, and they are being watched. These girls have caught the eye of "the man" who considers them his birds, and spends the time he watches them deciding which one he likes best. This man will change the lives of these girls forever.

I found the premise of the story interesting, and enjoyed the chapters being told in alternating narration from the different sisters, but this book read as though it was set maybe 50 years ago instead of today. Mention of current technology (like blogs) disrupts the story instead of creating setting. The ending seemed almost anti-climatic and I felt as though we are introduced to some of the sisters but their stories are never given a resolution. For me, this is a mild Thumbs down.

Sand Chronicles Vol. 1 by Hinako Ashihara

Ann and her mother have just moved back to the small town where her mother grew up because her mother and father have split up. Her mother worked too hard in Tokyo and ended up exhausting herself. After Ann's mother kills herself Ann must rely on her friends to get her through. This volume takes place during the winter that Ann is 12 and the summer she is 14.

This story really engaged me. Ann was cute without being too precocious, a problem I tend to find with shojo manga I've read. The story moved quickly and had excitement. Thumbs up.

Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott

Danielle has never known a life without stealing. She and her mother live on the run, stealing silver, and never letting anyone know the real them. Then they come to Heaven, and Danielle starts gets a taste of what she has never had, realizing that she wants a life without stealing, without silver, and without fake names or IDs, she just wants to be normal. But, will she ever be able to?

I really enjoyed the characters in this book, and I would have read it in one day if I hadn't had to go to sleep so I could get to work the next morning. Thumbs up.

Jellaby by Kean Soo

I don't really see our winner as a book about a giant purple monster and the young girl who feeds him tuna sandwiches. Cute GN for younger readers.

Frozen Fire by Tim Bowler

When Dusty answers a late night phone call, the caller repeats the words her brother last said to her before he went missing. Trying to track the mysterious stranger leads Dusty into a deserted park where she is attacked by three men intent on killing the caller. What follows is a tautly written adventure where she tries to uncover the caller's secrets, her own feelings of otherworldliness, and the reasons for her brother's disappearance. There is also a subplot with her lonely and depressed father, her mother who has abandoned the family, and the secrets her brother may have harbored. I did have some problems with the ending being a little fantastical for this psychological thriller. This one blurs the line between YA and adult (Think Tamar), and I'm not entirely sure of its broad range teen appeal. Even with those misgivings, I think this earns a YAY.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Fantastic techno-geek adventure wherein Marcus (a consumate hacker and rule breaker) is the target of intense scrutiny by the Department of Homeland Security. Rather than lie low and let the DHS run his life, Marcus and friends fight back by waging a cyberwar on an alternate internet. Fast paced, very hip, great teen appeal. YAY! (Although I do wonder what other librarians will make of Doctorow's instructions for bypassing library firewalls in the endnotes )

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Nay. This is a novelization of the story of Helmuth Huebner, one of the Hitler Youth she featured in her Newbery Honor book. While Hitler Youth was riveting and heartwrenching, this was very flat and cliched. I understand her desire to memorialize Helmuth, but this is not an award winner.

The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer

For being a companion to an earlier book, this story stood remarkably well on its own. I liked how the family's faith played strongly into the story but yet I didn't feel preached at, and the characters felt alive and authentic to me. Equal parts thought-provoking and heartwarming and gut-wrenching. Not necessarily the best book I've ever read, but I'll give this one a Thumbs Up for now.

The Winter War by William Durbin

An interesting take on a much-ignored piece of WWII (the Soviet invasion of Finland) and a good story for lovers of underdogs, but too many details seemed contrived or formulaic, and I thought it skewed young. Thumbs Down.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Outside Beauty by Cynthia Kadohata

Outside Beauty is a gem of a book. Narrated by 13 year old Shelby, it focuses on her relationship with her mother and 3 sisters, all by different fathers. Shelby's special responsibility is her youngest sister, Maddie. The book is paced much like the place in Arkansas where Shelby spends time with her dad--slow, with occasional mountains, and plateaus. Shelby does a lot of deep thinking and learning, about herself, her sisters, and the men that surround them. The audiobook is very well done, and both of my daughters (age 5 and 13) enjoyed it! Thumbs Up! (I've got to stop doing that!)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

This is one of those boarding school books I loved as a teen,
with a new twist. Frankie gets the hot guy as her boyfriend,
but instead of losing herself, she actually finds herself. There's a
lot of intrigue, too, because there's a secret society and a mystery to solve.
All in all, I give it a thumbs up! Very enjoyable read from E. Lockhart.

Welcome to the 2008 Michigan Thumbs Up! Blog

Hello everyone!
Welcome to the blog for the Thumbs Up! Committee of the Michigan Library Association, where we read a bunch of teen books and, with the teens' help, decide which title is the best teen book! Everyone is welcome to post and/or comment as you read your book. I've done a couple already.
I ask that we follow the following format:
Title: Title of book followed by author's name
Include a picture of the book's cover in the post, if possible.
Indicate in the post whether you give the title a Thumbs Up or a Thumbs Down.
Thanks everybody! Looking forward to reading your opinions.

Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter

This memoir details the life of Ashley Rhodes-Courter, who was in the foster care system from age 2 through 12, when she was adopted by a bestselling author Gay Courter and her husband. Ashley's story is a fairly typical of the flawed foster care system, but Ashley herself is very unique. She is smart, spunky, and determined the live life to the fullest. I've read a lot of memoirs, and I really liked this one. I think it would appeal to many teens. I give it a Thumbs Up!