Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Go Big Or Go Home by Will Hobbs

Woohoo! This was a fun story, dependably crazy with a dash of scary. I didn't pick of anything that would make it dated, because alien bacteria from mars is science fiction, and a good excuse to go nuts with stunts, catapults, autopsies and a little history/science thrown in. Parents are AWOL, but the way teens in my area live, this is pretty much standard practice. Good for a variety of ages, and boy friendly IMO. Yay.

Nightmare Academy by Dean Lorey

Good fun for ten-year-olds. Nay.

Gossip of the Starlings by Nina de Gramont

I'm uncertain about this title. Frankly a bunch of spoiled prep school kids doing blow on the Cape is soooo last century to me... and not particularly relevant to Chelsea. The writing is beautiful and detached, but is it really a teen novel when you feel like the narrator is inhabiting an older body as she tells the story? I had a sense that the author was trying to impart some truth of her early years, and she did a good job of capturing the capriciousness of teens who think they are SOOOO evolved and utterly uncaring if they live or die, but I didn't care if these spoiled twits DID live or die, and I couldn't finish the book (I may yet finish the book). I get sick of the rich and self absorbed.

Maybe, because I haven't finished the book.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12. She helps take care of her mother and sister by hunting, even though it is illegal. When the drawing for The Hunger Games comes up, 12 year old Primrose Everdeen, sister of Katniss, is called to be the girl representative for District 12, Katniss runs up to take her place. Now Katniss is literally in the game of her life, can her hunting and survival skills keep her alive, when 23 other people are hunting to kill her and claim victory for their district?

I could not put this book down, and one boy who checked it out from the library was done with it within a few days and gushing to me about it, so I assume it has teen appeal. There is a set up for other books to come, but this book clearly stands on its own. I give it a big thumbs up and it is one of the two best books I've read this year.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dreamrider by Barry Jonsberg

Michael has been to 8 schools in 4 years. At each one he faces bullying because of his size. The only bright side in his life is is step mother and a new friend at school. But the bullying just gets worse, especially when he is seen talking to him self. The author is definately trying to do a storyline twist by initially having the teen being able to lucid dream and then supposedly being able to dream into other's dreams. I don't think the author pulls off the end very well. It is esentially a book about mental illness from the point of view of someone who doesn't even know there is anything wrong. I'm nay.

Afrika by Colleen Craig

This rarely talked about and I think misunderstood topic is given a good reading in Afrika. Kim, the daughter of an expatriate South African, returns to that country with her mom who is reporting on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Kim, who grew up in Canada, doesn't know who her father is and why her mom left South Africa in the first place. Throughout the book the reader learns about the effects of apartheid, both past and present. It was interesting to me to see how the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was received and what life was like for both whites and blacks post apartheid. That said, I don't think this book has too much teen appeal. The search for her father gives a plot to the book and I think it would be a good one to read for a school unit on Africa (or racism), but I'm not sure too many kids would pick it up on their own. I give it a low maybe.

Season of Ice by Diane Les Becquets

As winter draws near, Genesis's father, a timber man, takes on a dock repair job while a storm looms on the horizon. As the hours pass and her father still hasn't returned, Genesis increasingly grows concerned. Her knowledge of her father's habit of not wearing a life jacket, rather tossing it nearby on the boat's deck "just in case" becomes more ominous. The wind has kicked up and the waves have grown choppy on the sea; her father has still not returned. Genesis and her step-mom Linda contact the sheriff and a search party is organized. Eventually the weather forces the sheriff to call off the search. Genesis is numb from both the cold and the recognition that her father is still missing. As the days go by and the ice blankets the sea, she is left to wonder whether her father is entombed below the surface.

I found the story and the detail wonderfully tied together with the setting. The exterior world of ice and snow matches the interior of Genesis's struggle. She is frozen in uncertainty, waiting for the thaw - and the author does an excellent job of meshing the two. I feel that Season of Ice is a compelling read that was very well written. Thumbs Up.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

In this world some people are born with Graces, something that they supernaturally excel at, such as cooking, singing, dancing or in the case of King Randa's niece Katsa, killing. People fear her, especially when she goes, reluctantly, to do her uncle's bidding. On one of her missions she meets Prince Po, who is Graced with fighting. But on a mission to save the seven kingdoms from a evil and Graced king, Katsa learns there is more to his Grace and her Grace than she imagined. Well written and thoroughly enjoyable. It has a great ballance of highs and lows, romance and adventure to attract a wide audience. Also some fairly original ideas, especially for a fantasy. I give it a yes!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Mystery of the Third Lucretia- Susan Runholt

Kari and Lucas are best friends who share a love for art. When Kari's mother gets a writing gig in France, the girls come along. When visiting a Rembrandt exhibit at a Paris museum, they find themselves swallowed in a mystery involving a possible forgery (the third Lucretia). Later, the mother is pulled in, and their mystery takes them to Holland.

This was a fun read. I was pulled along, wondering what would happen next, though I often wished that the last sentence or two of every chapter had been omitted. This is a book that I would be very comfortable recommending to folks, but doesn't seem to stand up as a permanent contribution to teen literature. Thumbs down.

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott--what can I say, but, "Wow!" Kidnapped at 10 from a school field trip, and held captive by a psycho child molester until age 15, "Alice" has to choose her replacement, knowing she would rather be dead than alive. If you've ever wondered what Elizabeth Smart felt, or Shawn Hornbeck (who had to choose his own replacement), then read this book. It's obviously a gritty topic, meant for older teens. It's a quick read--I read the whole thing in 2 hours--but a very important one. I'm anxious to hear what others think of it. I'm giving it a MAYBE, but I am tentative, because this book definitely falls into the category of "depressing teenager book."
***By the way, this title isn't on our original list, but I think it's important enough to add.***If anyone wants to borrow it, let me know and I'll send it!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg

It's 1963 and Addie lives in a racially divided town in the South. Although her family is poverty-stricken and must scrabble for their very existence, they have deep love and affection for each other. But, trouble comes when Addie accidentally laughs at a white woman in town and her brother tries to rescue her from some racist bullies. Suddenly, her brother is on the run, her mother is in despair, and her uncle takes on civil injustices in town.
The first half of this book was pretty good. Burg definitely hammers home her views on racial injustice and bigotry. While some of the writing felt heavy-handed, I was still enjoying the story. But as the story progressed, Burg started adding in plotlines that were implausible in the town she had created: a quickly progressing trial where Addie becomes a star witness with only circumstantial evidence against the town's biggest employer, a not guilty verdict, a full community sharing of the property that had been at the heart of the trial, her brother is safe and sound and was able to get a lawyer to the little town to help his uncle, etc.
She could have steered away from the happy resolutions and made the book much more effective. As it was, it came off as a bit of wishful thinking that I didn't find award worthy. Nay.

Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

Leslie thinks that having a tattoo will help her feel like she owns her own body and give her confidence. Instead, the tattoo she chooses makes her the consort of the king of the Dark Court in the Faerie world. He feeds off her negative emotions and though she feels no negative feelings, she's not happy either. In fact she's addicted to the King. Can she escape the faerie world? Does she want to? I had read the
predecessor to this book, Wicked Lovely, and this one does stand alone. Characters of the first book appear and the world Marr created is the same, but this is a different story. I had some problems with some of details of this one. I didn't get Leslie's role or appeal. So though it stands alone, I still give it a Nay

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hell Week by Rosemary Clement-Moore

In this sequel to "Prom Dates from Hell" Maggie Quinn in now in College and doing research for a news article on Greek Rush. In one of the sororities she stumbles across a pact with the devil and leaves one student dead. A fun book that can stand alone from its predecessor, it is good not great. I'm nay.

Monday, September 22, 2008

All We Know of Heaven by Jacquelyn Mitchard

This is a story inspired by headlines. It is about two best friends that look a lot alike and when there is an accident and one dies (Bridget) the other is in a coma (Maureen) the girls are confuse for one another. This is primarily a story about what happens after it is discovered who really survived. It is heartbreaking novel with people who make good and bad choices. At least one thing did strike me as a little off. A big deal is made in the book about the families being catholic (especially Maureen's family) and Maureen's mother wished she had her grandmother's King James bible, which is a protestant bible. It was just a small little detail that I didn't understand why it was in there in the first place, especially when it didn't make sense for a supposedly very catholic woman. But other than that I thought this was a good novel but not TU. I'm nay.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante

Patron Saint of Butterflies may appeal to young and older teens who took an interest in the removal of children from the desert compound in Eldorado, Texas earlier this year.

Agnes wants to be a saint. Honey is absorbed by learning about and seeing butterflies. They live in a religious compound, Agnes has two parents and a brother on the compound and Honey is an orphan. The brainwashing and blind following of the seemingly hypocritical "father" of the group is bile-fetching.

It is amazing that Honey would have such a sense of self and right despite the limited positive adult role models among the brainwashing. The alternatives to living in the commune could have been more detailed, but perhaps that would have come across as preachy. Although Honey saw the hypocracy of Veronica and Emmanuel, no other Believers question it. Following the events in Eldorado, some folks might be up in arms against this book, others against cult communes.
This doesn't have the warm fuzzy feeling of Schooled. It serves a different purpose, reflecting the depth of struggle between the pull of family, self-preservation and a sense of justice.

medium YAY

Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa

Three Shadows embodies the fear parents have of trying, but ultimately being unable to protect their child from threat. The parents respond very differently to the perceived threat to their child. The way they operate differently in the world is a marked contrast.

As Josh said at the meeting, there isn't a lot of dialogue and the graphic novel conveys much of the story in the illustrations.

I would say this is an excellent contender for Thumbs Up 2009. My only concern is the level of teen appeal. It is for an older reader (through adult). Some readers may object to the nakedness which is not meant to be titillating, but demonstrates the (au) natural openness of family. The discussion that could arise from a deep reading of Three Shadows has the potential to be quite profound and insightful.

Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley

Charlotte Usher dies at the moment she thinks her dreams are coming true. So her soul/ghost is having trouble detaching from the living.

Each of the dead have names associated with their death, favorite activities. Here's the passage that encapsulates the type of humor and made me laugh out loud. "DJ was spinning platters in the air, aiming the old vinyl LPs like buzz saws at Simon's and Simone's heads. Silent Violet sat at a desk ramming a finger down her throat like a determined bulimic, searching for her voice...Suzy Scratcher absentmindedly carved "wash me" into Rotting Rita's back as Rita grabbed at maggots crawling from her nostrils, rolled them in her fingers, and flicked them at Mike and Jerry, who held their thumbs and pinkies up like goalposts." (233-234)

So Charlotte is annoying and whiny and not particularly likable. I liked Scarlet and her goth spunkiness. The rules and "group goal" is interesting. I'm hoping there will be a greater wealth of superb titles to choose from, but if not, this may have a chance for consideration among what I've read so far. MAYBE

The Juvie Three by Gordon Korman

Gecko Fosse drove the getaway car.

Terence Florian ran with the worst gang in Chicago.

Arjay Moran killed someone.

All three boys are serving time in juvenile detention centers until they get a second chance at life in the form of Douglas Healy. A former juvenile delinquent himself, Healy is running an experimental halfway house in New York City where he wants to make a difference in the lives of kids like Gecko, Terence, and Arjay.

Things are going well, until one night Healy is accidentally knocked unconscious while trying to break up a scuffle among the boys. Terrified of the consequences, they drop him off at a hospital and run away. But when Healy awakes, he has no memory of them or the halfway house. Afraid of being sent back to Juvie, the guys hatch a crazy scheme to continue on as if the group leader never left. They will go to school, do their community service, attend therapy, and act like model citizens until Healy's memory returns and he can resume his place with them.

But life keeps getting in the way...like when Gecko finds romance. Or Arjay gets famous. Or Terence starts reverting to his old ways. If the boys are discovered, their second chance will be their last.

The premise of this book is very promising, but I did have some problems. Some of the third person narration read kind of awkward at times and it took awhile for me to really feel for the characters. Also, this book lacks some of Korman's normal humor. That said, by the end I was invested in the characters and actually felt nervous for them during the climax. Right now this is a high maybe for me, but I would be really interested to see what other people think.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Write Naked by Peter Gould

Victor is a 16 year old living in Vermont. After he is given an old typewriter he lugs it up to his uncles cabin where he wants to test the idea of writing naked. He's soon joined by Rose Anna, a homeschooled teen who's mother is depressed. I was a little disappointed with this book. It was good but not great. I also don't think this book would have wide teen appeal. The title could catch a teen but I don't know if many would stay with it. I vote nay.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt

This is the first of the year that I think I truly LOVE. Harper has escaped L.A. for the summer to work for a volunteer program building a house for a family in Tennessee after a tornado has wiped out the town. Her reasons for going are only slightly altruistic, however. Her father and adored stepmother have suddenly divorced and her stepsister/best friend, Tess is bitter and distant. As the summer progresses, Harper begins to work through her own feelings about family and love. She also falls for a young man and must learn to trust again, realizing that she cannot keep herself closed off from the possibility of love. The writing in this book is superb, Harper has a true voice, depth of character, and a full spectrum of emotions. I just really love this book!
Like I mentioned at the meeting, this one is geared for older teens. There is sex and drinking, but neither are gratuitous. Harper's decisions and those of her friends and family are honest, sometimes self-absorbed, and complex. Did I mention I loved this book? Yay!

Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper

A fictionalized account of a young woman hanged for infanticide in 1650. The story flips back and forth between her trying to waking up, remembering how she got there and a young autopsy assistant starting to notice that she might not be dead. This was a good book but on the whole, it didn't really stand out. I vote nay.

Keeping the Night Watch

This book, by Hope Anita Smith, tells the story of a family where the dad has "walked out" on the family, but has returned. The story, told in verse, is from the perspective of CJ, the oldest child in the book. CJ is trying to understand why his father had left the family and is trying to adjust to his father's reappearance. Without being over-the-top, we see the how this family has been altered by this change and that reunion is not as simple as having everyone together at the dinner table. While this book is a quick read, it is nuanced enough to stay in the mind for awhile. Anyone who has been subjected to a major change as a result of someone else's actions could relate to the book. I give it a thumbs up.

Compound by S.A. Bodeen

This first novel by author Bodeen is a truly gripping thriller. Eli, 15 years old, and most of his family have been locked away for the last six years in a massive underground shelter built by his billionaire father. Life on the outside has been destroyed by a nuclear war that also claimed the lives of Eli's twin brother and grandmother who were unable to make it to the shelter in time. They have 9 years to go before the door to the shelter can be unlocked but they are running out of supplies and won't last much longer. But then Eli makes a shocking discovery that changes everything.

I really enjoyed this book. It has appeal for a variety of teens, both guys and girls. The plot twists and turns and will leave you shocked in the end. Eli struggles with standing up to his tyrannical father to do what's right and save his family. All in all, a darn good yarn. I vote yay.

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner

Yann is a gypsy boy living in France on the eve of the revolution. When he meets Sido, a daughter of a marquis, his life changes. His friends die and he is forced to run to London. Later he has to return to France to save Sido from an evil murdering opportunist that insists she must marry him to save herself and her father. There is a little magic sprinkled in too. I had a hard time first getting into it but soon it picked up. I enjoyed it and I would see that it would have good teen girl appeal and I think if it had a different cover more boys would pick it up because it is a great adventure. I'm not sure if it has a lasting contribution though. I'm a maybe.

How to Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Myracle

As far as road trip novels go, this one is lots of fun! There are alligators, pirates and a potential hurricane. How much more adventure do you want? :) Still, it is rather light but highly enjoyable. This one will soon fade into the recesses of my mind, though, so I vote nay.

Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks

Pete, Pauley, twins Alex and Nicole, and Raymond used to be tight. As they have grown up, they have grown apart. It's the summer before they all leave town for various reasons be it college or other pursuits. Nicole calls Pete and wants them to all get together one last time. Even though Raymond is and has always been the outsider of the group, Pete insists upon dragging him along. They start drinking and things quickly turn bad. There's a fight and the group splinters apart. A local celebrity is murdered and Raymond goes missing. He's soon accused of the murder.

I have never been much of a Kevin Brooks fan. I had high hopes for this book after reading a review because it sounded so intriguing. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. It's a very dark novel and there isn't any resolution in the end and there doesn't seem to be much that is positive or redeeming. I vote Nay.

Would You by Marthe Jocelyn

This story is about two sisters, Claire and Natalie. It's the summer before Claire leaves for college. For Natalie, it's a summer of friends, fun and work but nothing special. Then there is an accident and everything changes. The would you from the title comes from the game Would You....would you rather know what's going to happen? Or not know? This is a very poignant look at one family's struggle when their lives are turned upside down. I say it's a strong maybe. I would definitely like other opinions.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Arab in America by Toufic El Rassi

A good graphic novel about one man's experience being an Arab in America. he was one when his parents brought him and his sisters to the US but with racial tension doesn't always know how to react. He's an American. This book also looks at how American media portrays Arabs, intentionally or not. This book really made me think. It was a good book but I really think this is targeted more to adults. I vote nay!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson

Three friends in Queens NY swear to be friends forever. Two of them have known each other for a long time and the 3rd, D Foster shows up and seems to have endless freedom but she lives with a foster parent and wishes for the families and love the other two have. When D's mother finally shows up and takes her away, the girls realize how little they knew about D. They find an understanding in Tupac Shakur's music and are saddened by his death. It was a well written book that leaves no true answers just the realizations that you might not really know those you think you do. I wonder if it would read differently to a person who is familiar with Tupac's music. I give this a weak yes.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Suck It Up by Brian Meehl

Another vampire tale. Not as dark as some and more humor than others. Fun read, with some interesting interpretations of vampire powers and abilities and vulnerabilities. The back cover and inside flap give away more than I would like for enjoying the surprise factors.

Morning becomes the poster child of vampires mainstreaming in the 21st century. He has to deal with being 16 forever, attraction to girls, and his dreams of his future.

The writing was generally good, especially with imparting the jokes and the banter. There were some shifts in perspective that were irksome (including a note from Portia 'aka the author' on the inside flap, but the book isn't from her perspective, but maybe that was out of Meehl's control). At some points Meehl speaks directly to the reader, but it feels awkward p 203 "He'd also found time for a light snack. In vampire parlance, 'a light smack'." His puns were amusing.

I wasn't convinced of Morning's fall after all he'd been through - seemed a bit improbable.

I also recognize that I wasn't in the most open frame of mind either, so recognizing that I could be hypercritical on this one, I'm giving it a MAYBE.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Eleven by Patricia Reilly Giff

Eleven is a book that really falls into a younger reader category. Sam, about to turn eleven, doesn't have the best of luck with reading. Truth be told, he can't read very much at all. One evening he stumbles upon a newspaper clipping that shows a younger child, but most definitely him, underneath a banner headline that reveals him to be missing. Sam wonders whether his supposed father, Mack, is really indeed his dad. Sam has apprenticed under Mack in woodcutting, and his skills are superb. He befriends a girl in his class, Caroline, and together they set about crafting a physical representation of the visions of castles Sam has seen in his dreams. Caroline has been moved around a lot, and alas, she will be moved again. The friendship becomes the driving force behind Mack's will to learn to read and write when the distance between them grows.

As I said - it really seems like this book is intended for a much younger audience. It also took me forever to get through - just didn't captivate me. Nay.

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

Scarlett Martin, 15, lives in an aging, once-thriving but now mostly empty, hotel in New York City with her parents, sister Lola (a would-be fashionista), sister Marlene (cancer survivor), and brother Spencer (would-be actor trying desperately to break into theater before being forced into culinary school). The story opens on Scarlett's birthday when she is given the responsibility of caring for one of the hotel's suites and with it, its permanent guest, the eccentric Mrs. Amberson, who promptly turns life as Scarlett knew it on its ear.

This was a fun book. Maureen Johnson handles all the usual teen angst with a lot of flair, and there are a lot of refreshingly solid family relationships here. This book definitely stands on its own, but I wouldn't mind reading more about Scarlett and company. Possibly not the best of the best, but a MAYBE.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

Twelve year old Addie's parents' recent separation has split not only her father-in-law and mother, but Addie from her step-siblings. A driving force between the break-up is likely whatever mental illness drives her mother to spend all her waking hours on the Internet looking for "business opportunities". Dwight, the step-father, has without obligation sprung for a yellow trailer in the city in which mother and daughter will live, and sends monthly checks that usually catch flight once they're in "Mommers'" hands. At a service station across the street friom the trailer, Addie befriends Soula and Elliot. Soula is in chemo, and Elliot dates the owner of a local restaurant. When her mother's business opportunity finally arrives, Addie is often left home alone for days on end. She even resorts to packing empty cereal boxes with thumbtacks to cover when her grandfather comes over to check up on her. She has managed to mature beyond her years, but maturation isn't enough to avoid a terrible accident that will eventually alter her and her family's way of life.

I really enjoyed Waiting for Normal. Addie's strong character really appealed to me, and the heartiness of Soula and Elliot was also endearing. I think it holds it's own - and I'm willing to give it a thumbs up at this time. We'll see how that stands down the road.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Harukaze Bitter Bop, vol 1 (GN) by Court Bettan

From back cover: Chiyoharu used to be the leader of the troublemakers, until one day an innocent prank results in a major fire at the school. When his three cohorts take the blame and are expelled, Chiyoharu tries to go on with his mundane life, beating himself up with guilt. Then he meets the mysterious, muscle-man Souza of the North Wind and a ditzy self-proclaimed detective who are trying to solve the mystery behind Souza's amnesia...

It is billed as nonstop action comedy, and there is frequent action, especially with the characters yelling at each other. Chiyoharu is slowly remembering where he's seen the image on the back of Souza's shoulder told in flashbacks. The teacher that Chiyoharu has a crush on is having money troubles. There competition among Chiyoharu's friends about what to do when they are together - is reading manga rude when other people are talking or playing Playstation?

I can't see it standing on its own as a solitary title, and don't see it as a significant contribution to teen literature, although I do see it's appeal for manga, and there are positive messages in the storyline which will continue to unveil as the series progresses. NAY

Death in the Air by Shane Peacock

This is the second novel of the young Sherlock Holmes. His mother is dead, his father wants nothing to do with him, blaming Sherlock for his wife's death. Sherlock is forswearing personal connections as this puts others at risk who could be close to him, yet he craves relationships with people.

It is fascinating to observe Sherlock's journey as he accumulates knowledge, develops proficiency with weapons, and hones his uncanny knack at observation and recall. He is manipulative, skilled and yet still a young adult.

I found this book to be more interesting and better written than the first in the series. I enjoyed seeing Sherlock's young life, contrasting it with the character I know through BBC renditions of the detective and seeing how Peacock explains how Sherlock becomes the man he is known to be through film and Doyle's stories. What I cannot evaluate is how this story will stand on its own since I've read the first one and how someone unfamiliar with Holmes might take the story without the broader context of this famous literary character. The first volume, I deemed too young for our group, but this one has a greater mixture of gore, violence and suspense that it fits into our age category.

I need others to weigh in on this. MAYBE

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle

Twins, Pen and Percy must use their magic to save their governess, Ally, from men forcing her to use her magic against the Princess Victoria in 1937 England. It is part mystery and romance with a dash of fantasy added. It is a decent book but not great. I vote nay.

Side by Side: New Poems ed. by Jan Greenberg

In this collection of poetry, Greenberg collected poetry from all over the world that was inspired by works of art. Many of the poems are printed in both the native language and English and all are accompanied by the art that inspired it. At least one language (Tigrinya) I had to look up because I had never heard of it (it's spoken in Eritrea). The artwork is lovely, the poems are nice. I just don't see this book having a lot of teen appeal. I vote nay.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Evernight by Claudia Gray

A slightly clumsy, self-conscious young woman is starting at a new high school. On her first morning she meets a gorgeous, bronze-haired young man who makes her heart start to pound. But, he is obviously hiding some secret that makes him distant and potentially dangerous. No, this is not a Twilight re-cap, it is the actual beginning of Evernight by Claudia Gray. There was one surprising event, but it was so poorly conceived that it made the protagonist seem like two different characters altogether. Throw in names that are intentionally "fancy" and you have a so-so vampire-love story with no award potential. Nay.

Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher

Ruby Jacinski is 15 living in 1941 Chicago. She is forced to quit school and work in a meat processing factory after her mother can no longer work. Paulie, a friend and mobster wannabe, says her she should be a taxi dancer instead. So Ruby lies to her mother and she gets paid 5 cents a dance at a local dance hall and makes much more money. She learns hard lessons about men and friends. And then lies start catching up with her and when her mother remarries, it all explodes in her face. Inspired by the real life story of the author's great-aunt, this is a good look at a unique part of American WWII era history. It was a worth while book but I'm not too sure about TU quality. I'm leaning towards nay.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lamplighter by D.M. Cornish

In this second book of the Monster Blood Tattoo Trilogy, Rossamund Bookchild is now a prentice lamplighter. Threnody, a monster hunter, is now with the lamplighters for training. This 602 page book, has an additional 100 pages of appendices, most of which is a glossary. Since I didn't read the first book, I had to flip back to the glossary so many times in the first 100 pages, I hate to admit it, that I gave up. At least one of the definitions had referred me back to the first book. So, I think, needless to say, I don't believe this book can stand alone. The illustrations are wonderful and the author obviously put a lot of effort into world building. I have to vote Nay.

The Diamond of Drury Lane by Julia Golding

Catherine "Cat" Royal lives in the Theater Royal in Drury Lane, London. This was an excellent historical fiction - an Regency England novel from the point of view of one of the lower class. Cat gets tangled up in a an adventure with a diamond, an artist in disguise, some lords, a lady, and the local gangs. Told by Cat, this novel follows the form of a play with "Acts" and "Scenes," "Principal Characters," and "The Critics." Cat's glossary at the end explicates her slang to her regency readers. So a creeper is a "louse, toady" and taggle-tail is a "slatternly woman." Our teens today might need to look up some of the definitions! I thought this had a lot of appeal, was fast moving, and clever. I vote yea.

Twice Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris

A sequel to Once Upon a Marigold, the evil queen is back . . . and now what should Christian, Marigold, and King Swithbert do? This was a delightful romp that explores what happens after "happily ever after" - cute and fun. But it didn't completely stand alone and I don't think that this is of permanent value to the genre. I vote nay.

Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty by Jody Gehrman

Geena and her two best friends (who haven't met before) are in for a summer of working together at Triple Shot Betty (a drive-through coffee shop).  Guys, gals, drinking, and sex are all a part of this one big summer. While this book didn't personally appeal to me, I did end up liking it . . . but I don't think that it fits for Thumbs Up - not a permanent contribution to the genre. I vote nay.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Day I Killed James by Catherine Hyde

Theresa really blew it. She toyed with a man's heart, and he went and did himself in. Theresa decides its all her fault and behaves self destructively.


I have read some great reviews of this book. I'm sure others will find it more appealing. Its just not up my alley.

Looks by Madeleine George

I didn't like this book, but it certainly has me feeling rather passionate. IF you're going to need to read it anyway, I suggest you not read this review.
I posted a really long review, but now that I've gotten it out of my system, lets just say I don't like how the author portrayed Obesity as the opposite of Anorexia. The girls are not treated equally as outcasts.. the heavy girl basically gets the extremely short end of the stick.

Nay, if you haven't guessed that yet.

Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing With Fire by Derek Landy

Good sequel, snappy dialogue, not an award winner, NAY.

Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors

Saving Juliet is the story of Mimi Wallingford, who is tired of being pushed around by her mother, sick of acting (literally) and heartbroken over the behavior of Troy Summer, her boy-band counterpart in the play she's performing: Romeo and Juliet. Due to a bizarre set of magical circumstances, Mimi and Troy are thrust into a real-life blood feud between Capulets and Montegues, and Mimi must make sure they both survive to escape. I give this one a MAYBE, because its spunky and imagines a new, better ending for the play (it's certainly not one of my favorites, so i'm all for a rewrite). I actually think it might be a good companion to reading the play because there's a little literary analysis thrown into the fantasy, and quotes from many of Shakespeare's works.

What It Is by Lynda Barry

If you aren't in the right frame of mind, looking at this book would probably confuse you. On the surface, the book is a collection of scrambled sentence fragments, questions, doodles and cuttings. Readers who persevere will be rewarded with a rich text designed to make one think about what writing is, why we do it, and how to help ourselves become better writers. What better means, of course, is totally subjective, but it can usually be linked to MORE, including doodles.
Lynda is known for her comic strips/books, but here amidst colorful and creative art, she doesn't try to teach drawing. Frankly, she isn't teaching WRITING either, but her biographical sketches and clever writing exercises help readers understand the processes (and circumstances) that lead to creative expression. I personally wish I had more time to write and doodle in my old journals, and this book reminded me of the pleasure I got from those free-form story-writing exercises. I look forward to using this book in our library's new teen writing group, and I hope everyone gets a chance to crack this open and take a look. Yay.
Here is a recent interview with the author if you would like to know more about her.