Sunday, August 31, 2008
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Iorek the Polar Bear makes a guest appearance, but not for very long, so don't read it expecting to get a lot of bear action.
I would give the book a hearty Yay, but it probably doesn't stand alone terribly well given that a person really needs to know what a daemon is, and the appearance of Iorek would seem rather abrupt if the reader weren't expecting it.
So, Nay, but it you love a good western, its not to be missed!
Friday, August 29, 2008
Hutch is playing second base because D-Will is playing shortstop even though he doesn't live and breathe baseball like Hutch does. Hutch doesn't talk to his dad about baseball or much else. The championship games are approaching and the news media is circling. Will the story be about the rising team, winning or losing the big game, or a single super star?
Lupica gives a non-playing reader a glimpse of the anxiety, mutual support and smack talk, fragility and egos on the line in a teenage boys' summer baseball team. The writing is smooth despite the potentially limited scope (for a non-sports reader like myself) of interest in the topic and keeps a good pace. There are human interest aspects, twists to the action and background info that help bring along an uninformed reader. Lupica acknowledges parental roles in the life of players and teams and seems to capture teenage slang without going overboard. Lupica presents a mostly likeable protagonist and the friendship between Hutch and Cody is solid and enjoyable, contrasted with Hutch's relationship with his dad. Mom is sort of buffer/observer/reassurer but otherwise plays little role in the tale. An enjoyable, solid sports book about team, but not exemplary for TU. NAY
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Dane was on top of his game, on top of his world. He wins nordic skiing competitions with calculated casualness (taking side trips along the way) and doesn't appreciate the effort others need to put into the sport to achieve less. Dane contracts Guillain-Barré syndrome and his life turns upside down. Suddenly, it takes effort to speak. He can't move or feed himself, and he has little patience for those who do it for him. Dane has calculated the likelihood of his full recovery as high, based on the research he had his girlfriend, now ex-girlfriend, gather for him. Dane assesses his future options and figures he needs few of the people in the Florida rehab center and must connect with even less.
Dane is a product of his emotionally abusive father and emotionally absent mother. They placed him in the Florida site because of it's credentials, and the convenience of not needing to visit him frequently - too disruptive for their lifestyles. Dane's father expects to see him once he's up and walking again. Dane is emotionally frozen and thinks he needs no one and strives for perfection constantly. His pressure to succeed is both internal and from his father who spends no time with his children that is not productive.
It is interesting to have the first-person perspective of a male character going through so much of an emotional journey about his physical disease and challenges, family relations, internal pressures to succeed and friendships. Dane's life before GBS is told in flashbacks. The writing is good, but editing missed one detail early on: the therapist deliberately pulled down the shade to try and refocus Dane's attention on P 16. Once she leaves, Dane is looking out the window again, but there is no mention of how he can now see out - he is still paralyzed.
I am not convinced of Dane's father's turnaround following the visit. What would prompt his change of expectations? The mother is largely absent - sort of a pale and insignificant archetype. I am interested in having discussions about this one for TU and in the context of a contribution to teen lit - MAYBE
Then he gets off the plane. And sees the parrots. And the bad dye job. And the gold sunglasses. And he sees older women taking a second look at his dad. Aka "The King".
Josh is fairly self absorbed, not unlike many 13 year olds. He feels like he needs to be independent as well as protective of his dad from his over-worrying mother, so Josh doesn't tell his mom the most salient points of change about his dad: he lost his job and he's impersonating Elvis.
All Shook Up is entertaining to a point, but Josh isn't very engaging or lovable (he's "poor me" pathetic). His strategy for getting in with the jocks by the vending machines at the school cafeteria isn't accompanied by any descriptions of who those students are, and he makes no internal observations of who his new "friends" would be after sitting for by himself for weeks watching them. When Josh is selected for the baseball team, there's no recognition that being picked by David brought Josh closer to achieving his "goal".
I remember the days when practically anything my parents did out of the ordinary was embarrassing at some level, but then we'd compare notes among friends - not further isolate ourselves all the while wishing for inclusion while rejecting the friendship overtures offered. Perhaps Josh's reaction was in line with his self-esteem, but he seemed to take great exception to his dad. Josh does make steps toward redemption and Gladys provides lighter fare with soul. Ivory is both wise and innocent and possibly a little shy, but it still seems like she would have greeted him face to face earlier and had some awareness of Josh's sensitivity to his dad's new vocation.
Rapunzel's Revenge spins western adventure, epic rescue, long lost family, despotic injustice and friendship redeemed into a fractured fairy tale in graphic novel form. The map in the middle of the story allows the reader to track the journey of Rapunzel and Jack through the desert, ghost towns, Devil's Armpit and treacherous territory of outlaws and Mother Gothel's henchmen.
The illustrations add to the depth of action as well as appreciated gags such as Rapunzel's reading material in the tower "Girls who get saved and the princes who saved them". There are a few tools in the illustrations that seem to be a nod to the influence of manga - distance shots with little detail and emotions expressed with eyes changing shape (not quite as dramatic as stars). I like the variations in the styles and perspectives in the illustration as well as the flashback washout.
The ending is good, especially with Rapunzel's refocusing her strength and motivation despite the upper hand of her opponent. Jack's presence weaves in another fairy tale, and he adds humor. Mother Gothel's reason for such oppression isn't explored at all which renders her as a flat character. Near the end, I thought we would have insight as to why Rapunzel was locked in the tower to better understand Gothel's motivation. Rapunzel's Revenge is worthy of being in library collections for upper elementary/middle school, but not TU exemplary. NAY.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
What Haddix does well is come up with suspenseful adventure series for middle school kids. What this book lacks is depth of character, timelessness, and any type of timeless truth. Big nay from me.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
This quick read written in concrete poems and narrative about Diamond Willow, a young Alaskan girl, who's favorite dog is injured when she takes a dog sled out to visit her grandparents. She is watched over by a variety of animals who are reincarnated ancestors. It is only the dog Roxy who knows she is Willow's reincarnated twin sister. Each poem has another message printed in bold. It is a lovely story that sucked me in. I'm not sure if it would have huge teen appeal and it definitely falls in the younger end of the award (the main character is 12). I really enjoyed it. I say yes for now.
Audrey breaks up with her boyfriend, Evan. He writes a song about their breakup. The song is a hit. First on college airwaves and then nation wide. The paparazzi isn't kind and Audrey isn't relishing the fame - she is the one who initiated the breaking up after all.
The story is told from Audrey's perspective to the reader as if we've been following the tabloids and Internet messages blogging her every move, especially the blunders. Audrey, Wait! is book candy - witty, sarcastic and featuring an obese feline as the straight man in the comedy. I wish I had Audrey's repertoire of repartee and banter. Observation: Audrey has a tremendously secure body image to not once worry about how her body looked in the videos and photos (except her fashion and hair). If you've never wanted to be famous, this story will endorse that aversion to the spotlight.
The style reminded me of Cupcake by Rachel Cohn - probably not coincidence since she's acknowledged by Benway at the end. It is a fun read with rapid fire comebacks and likeable characters. The quips may not be timeless although the communication technology IM, blogs, message boards are likely be to common tools or generally remembered in history. The band references will fade, but the quotes at the beginning of each chapter have significance even if the reader isn't familiar with the songs. (and anything can be found on Google after all...) Fun read, entertaining, but I don't think it qualifies as timeless. NAY
Even summarizing this book makes me conflicted. Parts of it were fantastic contemporary fiction about a young man's self-discovery, parts of it could have been interesting paranormal fantasy. I think the strongest writing involved the former, the latter started to feel like a bit of a crutch to get to the meat of the story. However, this one did make me think. I'm giving it a high Maybe.
When Aunt Sempronia declares that Charmain must look after Great-Uncle William's house, she imagines she will read undisturbed away from her nagging parents. Charmain doesn't know how to cook or clean or do magic because it isn't respectable. Charmain arrives at the small seeming house just as Uncle William is wisked away by the elves with no introduction to the house or her responsibilities. Conveniently, William has made preparations to assist Charmain, if she just asks the right questions.
The fire demon and the dog were entertaining, but most of the characters lack depth and authenticity. We are told on p 3 that Mr. Baker never lets Charmain do anything "that was not utterly respectable", but his behavior at the end and handing over of the yellow folder belies this statement. Peter's parent declares her deep concern for his welfare, but blindly sends him away not certain of his reception at his destination.
I think there were inside jokes for readers of Howl's Moving Castle with naughty Twinkle and fire demon Calcifer. House of Many Ways is a better read than last year's nomination of The Game by Jones, but still not a TU contender. NAY
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
"Conn should have dropped dead the day he picked Nevery's pocket and stole the wizard's locus magicalicus, a stone used to focus magic and work spells."
Conn lives in Twilight, a pickpocket able to open locks and survive alone in a treacherous city. Conn is streetwise, frank, intelligent and advocates well for himself. Nevery takes him on and Conn insists on being an apprentice, not a servant. Nevery, the crotchedy exile, ignores Conn's questions and insights about the dying magic of Wellmet.
Magic Thief is an enjoyable story with good pacing, and the characters have fun quirks and interactions. Conn's adventures and forthright observations have engaging appeal. It is a fun read, lighter than Harry Potter but can go on a HP read alike list. I think the series will be a sucess, but I'm not convinced it is TU material. NAY
Aeronautics. Fencing. Inventions. Poison. Treason. Loss. Survival. Diving Bell. Diamonds. Fear. Love.
Nicholas comes to the islands of Saltee as king of a country he's never set foot on. The marshall, Hugo Bonvilain, obeys the king in form, but not in purpose or plotting. Declan and Catherine raise Connor aside Nicholas' daughter, Isabella. The children are tutored, and Connor is trained in skills needed to defend his king and country by Victor Vigny. Connor's youthful adventures and mishaps are summarily ended when he is framed and thrown in prison.
At first I found this tale difficult to get into because the beginning set off as a dry, non-fiction background story. It was a little confusing not to have an author's note at the back outlining the "true" parts of the historical setting. (I'm willing to suspend belief to read a story, but when it is so believably spun I like to know which parts are made up so I don't later espouse a fantastical tale as truth.)
More anecdotes during Connor's young life would have been enjoyable, but those that Colfer included were delightful and established reasonable enough "schooling" and natural ability to warrant Connor's invention successes and intrepid survival. There's old fashioned gadgets, and enticing descriptions of Saltee that could have readers looking on a map to plan a visit to the islands (which do exist).
A sequel feels possible, but unnecessary, and Airman stands on its own. I think it could get bumped out by other exceptional tales, but for now I'm giving it a MAYBE.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
It’s winter break at St. Vladimir’s, but Rose is feeling anything but festive. A massive Strigoi attack has put the school on high alert, and now the Academy’s crawling with Guardians—including Rose’s hard-hitting mother, Janine Hathaway. And if handto- hand combat with her mom wasn’t bad enough, Rose’s tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason’s got a huge crush on her, and Rose keeps getting stuck in Lissa’s head while she’s making out with her boyfriend, Christian! The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy’s not taking any risks….This year, St. Vlad’s annual holiday ski trip is mandatory. But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only create the illusion of safety
When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price…
One thing that stood out to me about this book is that is really does stand alone. I was able to follow the story with the quick recap that came at the start of the book. It reminded me a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer but without the trademark snark. There is definite teen appeal, but I am not sure if it is an amazing example of literature. For now though, Thumbs Up.
I don't remember reading many reviews about this book or catching much hype but this may be the unexpected hit of the year.
Monday, August 18, 2008
I really loved this book. One of the reviews on the back said that this novel was very similar to a Crutcher novel, which is very high praise. The book lived up to it and more. The characters were well developed and the story flowed both quickly and effortlessly. In addition to being well written and a good story, it was absolutely hilarious and it should have great teen appeal. I also think it would be a very good read for any teens experiencing similar issues because you really start to understand where all the characters involved are coming from and a person in a similar situation would be given a lot to think about. I would give this book a very enthusiastic Thumbs Up!
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Some years later, the mother needs a fresh start, picks the family up and moves them out to the country into an old family home that could be described as a Victorian fixer-upper. Soon thereafter, Emily and Navin happen upon an amulet, upon which Emily takes an immediate hankering. Yes, hankering. Unfortunately, she's not the only being that desires the long lost amulet. It isn't long before mother is swept away by a tentacled creature, and Emily and Navin must begin a journey to rescue her.
I enjoyed Amulet, which ends on a cliffhanger - leaving you wanting for the second book. That alone makes me question whether it can stand on its own. The animation (graphic novel) is nice, but nothing earth shattering. The story is nothing new - formulaic - I suppose is the word.
I'm gonna say Nay.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Madeline believes she performs miracles. She saved her father from an avalanche, and is convinced she should be a saint. She writes a lot of letters to the Pope, focuses on her next tremendous (or not so tremendous) miracle and discovers she needs to be Catholic...and dead...to be named a saint.
The most jarring thing about this book was that Madeline's new favorite song was on a cassette tape. Where would a girl today acquire a cassette tape of Catholic chants? (Backstory on how/why she acquired a cassette of nuns singing liturgical songs might have emphasized her misplaced zealousness to become a saint. She doesn't seem savvy enough to find it herself ....).
I would give this book to a young person searching for self, going through parents' divorce, needing a different slant on a parent's perspective/experience. Not engaging enough. I just didn't feel sufficient empathy for Madeline's obsession or self-blame. NAY
(adapted from previous e-mail posting sent July 28)
Into the Dark: An Echo Falls Mystery is a fast read, with mystery aspects the reader can deduce along the way (some far in advance of the main character, Ingrid). Ingrid is coping with mysteries in her family, and accusations in her community. Her best friend is avoiding her; her parents don't talk to her grandfather, and someone's been murdered.
Into the Dark (book 3 in the series) doesn't stand on its own - there are a few references to previous mysteries/incidents that are unexplained/out of context to a new reader - sort of a bone thrown to loyal readers. Editor error: In one scene Ingrid reaches down with her mittened hand and later in the same scene she has forgotten hat and mittens.
There's divorce and an affair so the appeal to much young readers is leavened with the messier aspects of adult relationships as well as a serious illness so that raises the age above elementary which I would otherwise say it's geared toward. A good mystery read for the younger end of our criteria range, but not superior. NAY
(adapted from previous e-mail posting sent July 28)
Nick of Time is a mixed bag of sailing adventure, pirates, pre-WWII spying, Nazis and time travel. The language harkens back to lush descriptions in an epic style. I am not sure if most young adventure readers will slog through the flowery adjectives to pursue the action. I couldn't figure out how Nick McIver's ancestor knew of his existence, where and when he would be in order to send through the message. Nick's 6 year old sister, Kate, is a hoot and intrepid side kick. Adventure romp with boy appeal, wholesome characters. I wonder if the epic would have been more satisfying without the time travel and with Bell sticking to espionage and wits. NAY
Generation Dead is a fun story that took a while to capture my interest. The scenes in the school cafeteria and on the bus start off like a combination of Schooled, Stargirl, Prom Dates from Hell and Sixteen Candles all meet Twilight in a "don't be so biased against the new kids just because they're dead" sort of way. I think it will have appeal to goth, quiet rebels, social status deviants, musichead - how many authors besides Krovatin mention Slayer... ;) - and even football readers. Waters' cultural references seemed well integrated in characters' personas and not just throw away gags or glitter.
I enjoyed Generation Dead but didn't find enough impetus for some of the emotions expressed and actions not taken. It bothered me that Phoebe didn't tell Adam of Pete's threats when they both witnessed the attack on Tommy and experienced the menace against themselves. There was no reason to think she would want to protect Pete or that she feared standing up for herself. Waters had already established Pete and Adam weren't friends. Why wouldn't Phoebe have been more proactive against the anti-zombie violence when she was outspoken against the media not reporting deaths? Waters could have given more depth behind the fear of the "biotically different". The reason why some living impaired functioned better than others brought a "depth of living" insight to the story. I read an advanced reader copy so it is possible that some of the writing would be tightened up in publication, and this is the best of what I've read so far, but NAY.
Our strawberry blond (yay) heroine Chloe becomes hysterical at school (you'll see why) and is forced to stay in a house for crazy teens.. or are they really crazy? At the Lyle House, she attracts the attention of handsome Simon and hulking Derek, as well as a catty, unstable cadre of girls. The pacing is fast and the reading level easy, making for a quick, zesty page turner with lots of plot twists and clever use of technology. YAY.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Gil Goodson seeks to secure his happiness by winning the ultimate trivia and puzzle contest and moving away to escape shame and bullying and (hopefully) false accusations.
Great for readers who enjoyed Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and who can suspend disbelief and use their imaginations well. While reading it I thought it was too similar to Dahl to not be deliberate. I was relieved that Feldman wrote in the author notes at the end of the book that Gollywhopper was written for those who wanted more adventures like Charlie's. Since there are other issues, I didn't bother worrying too much about whether this homage to the clever classic was reason enough to disqualify the book.
The scenes are outrageous and ridiculous on purpose, and appropriate for the context, and probably fit in with children's imagination and wishes for games and environment created just for them. I didn't find the characters to have enough depth for the Thumbs Up award, but can definitely see the appeal to younger readers. Rocky and his parent needed more backstory to be believable. I would put the appeal starting younger than 12 (9?) and have this book in our J Fic section. The puzzles were fun to figure out on the way. Gollywhopper could bring young readers to Dahl. Fun, but NAY.
Gem X is a generation of genetic perfection. Maxo, 16, purported to be highly intelligent and molded to exquisite physique without aid of exercise due to calculated gene splicing and modification. Enhanced people live in Polis. Dating among the perfect elite is virtual (until screened and approved for genetic compatibility), and food comes in the form of pills. The Enhanced do not mix with the Dreggies (Naturals) who live in the Estates, and Poldrones and Clodrones serve the Enhanced with complete obedience. Then Maxo's perfection starts to crack.
Gem X takes on some of the foibles of an apocalyptic society run by a power scheming despot. Maxo doesn't strike me as being "preposterously intelligent" as it takes him a while to grasp concepts outside of the brainwashing he's been raised under and he doesn't exercise clever schemes, offer blinding insight or witty dialogue. He strikes me as a rich kid who has been isolated and protected from an unstable dystopia in his back yard and is beginning to experience a different point of view of his world. Some of his reactions weren't as strong as Mary's and John's revelations in Wall-E (great flick with a more benevolent ethos of protection and ignorance). I didn't see enough character development to warrant a Thumbs Up, but I would pass on to those not ready for deep sci fi and ready question authority. NAY
Friday, August 8, 2008
I liked that this book took a fantastic piece of literature and succeeded in putting it in a very new format. It really works as a graphic novel because you can visually see Thoreau experiencing the world around him. It also compresses what can be a tedious read, especially for a teen, into a very simple and enjoyable one, yet at the same time it does do a good job of getting the major ideas behind Walden across. I also really enjoyed the very simplistic art style that Porcellino uses. The biggest down side for me is that I just don’t see there being that much interest in it for teens, or anyone for that matter. Walden appeals to certain people, but there are a lot of people who just don’t have an interest in reading it and I see that being the same for this book. Also, while I liked it, there is nothing truly exceptional about it. So, I am somewhat undecided but I would probably vote No for now.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
I'm on the fence, but leaning towards nay - looking for other thoughts in the comments.