Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie Stiefvater

Deirdre is a 16 year old music prodigy and is also painfully introverted until she meets Luke and with a little magic, convinces her into a duet. She soon discovers some magic of her own that leads to the discovery that Luke is a gallowglass, a soulless assassin for the faerie queen. (Her family has been tormented by faeries for generations.) She eventually must choose to risk her own life to free his soul. Good book, great book to recommend to Twilight fans but not TU.

Hippie Chick by Joseph Monniger

Lolly is used to taking her sail boat out into the bay by herself, but when her boat founders and she is soon seperated from it. Just when she thought it was over for her she is rescued by a manatee and taken to a warm spring in a mangrove island. She was able to warm up and eat some vegetation. Her hippie mother and friends are frantically searching for her but they are following the currents never knowing the manatee took her in the opposite direction. She isn't missing for long though, on the second day she swims with her manatee once more out into the ocean where a helicopter spots her. When the rescuers spot the manatees they carefully rescues her with out scaring them away. But unfortunately a Miami news crew boat sliced into her rescuing manatee. This fictional book was designed as the book she wrote a couple of years after the incident to sell after she went on talk shows, and her story was optioned by a movie studio. I had expected the living with the manatees part of her story to be longer but in general it is a quick read that is definitely a book about the plight of the manatees. Good but I just don't see this as a TU.

The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli

Monna Elisabetta, 15, will soon be betrothed to a noble of Florence Italy. She betroths herself to Giuliano de'Medici but her father has other ideas. The whole time through her life's good times and bad, from her mother's death through the birth of her children, Leonardo da Vinci is just waiting for her to mature to paint her portrait that he'll never know how famous his Mona Lisa will become. For a portrait that little is known about Napoli presents a great historical what if, who could the woman be. well written and researched. Good book but I'm just not feeling TU.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Suckerpunch by David Hernandez

Marcus is a teenage boy who thinks about sex a lot - with his friend's mom, with his brother's girlfriend, with the news anchor . . .  he also gets wasted a lot. He feels - ineffectual? because he only once jumped his dad to get him to stop beating up his younger brother. At least half the book is about going with his brother to his Dad's apartment (he left the family a year ago) with a starter gun (used in sports to start races kind of gun) to confront their dad and stop him from coming home again. Told in almost a stream of consciousness, the time was continually being flipped here and back again. Marcus is five, he is sixteen, he is seven kind of deal. This was occasionally confusing. I'm surprised (after finishing) that I think that it was rather a good book - almost like a suckerpunch to my senses. However, I found many parts of it distasteful - and I really hope that not all teens live and think like this!  I vote maybe.

The Hunt for the Seventh by Christine Morton-Shaw

Jim and his family have moved to a new estate where his father has gotten a new job as groundskeeper in hopes that it helps all of them cope with Jim's mother's death. Jim and his sister have specific areas where they are allowed to go with in the house and if they are caught it means his father will be fired. Jim soon sees that the estate is haunted by six children and it is left to him to find the seventh to avert catastrophe. He makes friends with an autistic boy Einstein. Come to find out Einstein is the 7th ghost and was killed by Lord Minerva. Good suspenseful book but not TU. I'm nay.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford

Chronicles the 45 day stay of 15 year old Jeff in a psychiatric ward because of an attempted suicide. He'll talk but he doesn't want to talk about his best friend Allie nor about dating and girls in general. But after death of a friend he made in the hospital and sexual encounters with a new guy in the ward, he finally admits to his doctor that he had kissed his best friend's boyfriend and was rejected then rejected again by an angry Allie. It was funny, it was sad, it was really good not great. I'm a nay

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier

In this companion to Wildwood Dancing Paula has traveled with her father and a load of goods to Istanbul to trade and find "Cybele's Gift." A bodyguard, Stoyan, is hired primarily to protect Paula since one of her fathers friends was murdered. Of course a romance develops and adventure. It has a really slow beginning and I had trouble getting into it. I hadn't read Wildwood Dancing and didn't feel lost. Good not great. I'm nay.

Big Splash by Jack D. Ferraiolo

Matt Stevens is a 7th grade PI that is hired by Vincent "Vinny Biggs" Biggio who is known for his candy black market. It was also Vinny Biggs that got the candy vending machines banned in the first place. There are Squirt-gun Assassins (they squirt water on kids below the belt). There are the "Outs" the least popular club. When Nikki Fingers is made an Out by an assassin Matt tries to solve the mystery. Fun read but reads young. So I'm a nay.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dooley Takes the Fall by Norah McClintock

Dooley has had a checkered past and his reputation precedes him when he begins attending his new High School. One evening, Dooley witnesses someone falling from a bridge - and comes upon the body of one of his new classmates moments later. Suspicions are cast and it isn't long before Dooley is in hot water. A little mystery, a little love - a handful of language and lots of violence leaning this towards the upper tiers of YA - I enjoyed the story - but I don't think it's Thumb's Up.


Sister Wife by Shelley Hrdlitschka
This book does give insight into the practice of polygamy. I'll be honest, though, I have about 100 more books to read than this one and it just doesn't catch my attention right away--so thumbs down.

Everything Beautiful in the World by Lisa Levchuk

Edna is getting away with a lot since her mother was hospitalized for cancer in this early 80s (dare I say) historical fiction. She is failing Latin, refuses to talk to her mother on the phone let alone see her in the hospital. All the girls in school have crushes on the art teacher, Mr. Howland but it is Edna that has a secret affair with him. But it doesn't stay secret for long after his wife and another teach both figure it out. Her mother forces her from the hospital to go see a therapist which dregs up her insecurity over her autistic brother's death. (Though to me, this plot line seemed a little extraneous). A good book not great. I'm nay.

Swiss Mist by Randy Powell

This book follows Milo from his parent's divorce when he is in 5th grade through his mother's remarriage when he is in 10th. Milo's parent's divorced because his philosopher professor father did psychedelic drugs, cheated and lost the family's savings. The divorce forced his mother to move them into a cheap crime ridden apartment in a suburb of Seattle while she went to school to be a dental aid. She eventually starts dating an old widower friend from high school with 3 kids of his own. Meanwhile Milo's dad sends him sporadic post cards from around the world and eventually has him visit in Arizona. Milo also remembers his favorite 5th grade teacher who would tell tales of her trip to Switzerland and her aunt and uncle but he never understood why she was fired. Finally he sees her speak on her trip at a community college and afterward talks to her only to learn that it was all a lie. She's never been to Switzerland just photo-shopped her picture into stock pictures, she never had a great aunt and uncle and she now works as a topless dancer outside of town. He eventually realizes he is his own person not dependent on his father or who he thought this teacher was. Good book, not great. I'm nay.

High Dive by Tammar Stein

Arden is an army brat that has travelled the world. Her family owns a vacation home on Sardinia that her parents planned to retire to but her father had died a couple of years before and her mother no longer wants it. And since her mother is now serving in Iraq, Arden travels alone to make one last visit. She meets up with other college students traveling Europe and briefly tags along, making sure to check her email everyday to make sure her mother is OK. Because of her worry for her mother she feels different than the other girls so she leaves and finally arrives on Sardinia. She also slowly comes to the realization that her old friend Peter is worth taking a risk to date him. A good timely book, but I'm not sure about timeless. I'm nay.

The Ghost's Child by Sonya Hartnett

Maddy is an old lady who tells her tale over tea to a strange boy. Her tale is about her younger years meeting a young man, Feather, and loosing a child. She tries to keep Feather by trying to kill herself but that pushes him away. She sails the world having fantastic adventures to return home and become a doctor. And surprise, surprise the strange boy is the child she miscarried sent to escort her to her next life (saw that one coming from the first page). In the end I don't think this is thumbs up material. For such a short book it is still slow and I don't see it as having wide teen appeal.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Guardian by Julius Lester

yes. This one is important. Lynching from the viewpoint of a white young man in the south. Kind of predictable, but the prologue was enough to make me a huge fan.

Dear Julia by Amy Bronwen Zemser

Okay- I'm reading like a mad person, but this one was definitely funny. I think we have a lot of serious books in consideration and would like to see if anyone else found this to be amusing. There is also a bff with 2 moms (important, but not overdone). However, I felt the appearance of Julia Child at the end was kinda cliche and won't generate the kind of teen appeal I'd like. Someone else go read this, please!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fancy White Trash by Marjetta Geerling

Abby is trying to avoid making the same mistakes that her mother and sisters have made. After all her mother and one sister are pregnant with the same man's children while another sister is sleeping with him. Her best friend, Cody, is closeted and she is in love with his older brother. Her father moves in after he seperates with his current wife. Fun book but not timeless. I'm nay.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Two Parties, One Tux and A Very Short Film About the Grapes of Wrath by Steven Goldman

In this funny story, Mitchell's best friend David comes out of the closet (only to him), they take girls to the prom, Mitchell gets dumped and then realizes he is better off dating his sister's best friend. He also turned in a mildly risque film project in place of an essay on "The Grapes of Wrath" because he didn't want to read the book And he still has to come to terms with his best friend being gay. A fun book that I laughed out loud to. And eventually the cover makes sense. In the end, even though I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I'm not sure about its timelessness. I'm maybe.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

This is a more realistic take on the Arthur legend, told by a young woman named Gwynna, a slave who becomes the servant of Myrddin.  Throughout her life with Myrddin she passes off as the Lady of the Lake, a boy solider, and a handmaiden for Gwenhwyfar (Arthur's queen).

There were some plot holes of sorts, the fact that Gwynna keeps switching between being a boy and a girl and yet no one seemed to question it was sort of weak.  Plus, Arthur comes off as really horrible.  Those problems aside, the story itself was pretty strong, so I give it a maybe.

Steinbeck's Ghost by Lewis Buzbee

Travis bikes to his local library every Saturday to re-read his favorite books. The library is named after Steinbeck since it is also Steinbeck's home town of Salinas CA. But soon Travis is seeing Steinbeck's characters come to life. Now the library is threatened with budget cuts and he hopes to save it. There is more to the story than just that but ultimately, I think this would appeal the most to teens who have read a lot of Steinbeck, which limits its appeal. I've only read the "the Red Pony" and that was years ago so I got a little bored. Good book but not great. I'm Nay.

Undone by Brooke Taylor

Serena's wealthy and dark best friend, Kori, is killed in a car accident coming home from a party and the school assignment (five things they would never dream could really happen) leads to the discovery of Serena's father. Serena's mother has always refused to disclose his identity because he was married with kids of his own. Come to find out he is Kori's dad. A little predictable. Good book but not great.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Seaborn by Craig Moodie

Luke's parents split just as they were to leave for their annual sea voyage. So now it is just Luke and his father. Luke is not looking forward to the boredom. But when a storm catches them it is not boring. His father gets washed overboard and Luke doesn't know if he's alive. Good not great. I'm nay.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Primavera by Mary Jane Beaufrand

Flora lives during the Italian Renaissance. Thanks to her father's mechanisms and her parents' greed, their family become "traitors" to the city and most are killed. Flora lives, although she too has to eventually leave after having lived as a boy - an apprentice to a goldsmith.  The title is based on the painting by Botticelli - who is a character in the novel. Flora (the character in the novel) is supposedly the Flora (goddess of flowers) in the Primavera painting. Although I really wanted to be wrapped up in this story - I liked the plot line a lot - I could just not get into it. There was always just a large distance between what was happening and any emotion. I vote nay.

The Mayflower and the Pilgrams' New World

I just don't feel that books adapted from adult books fulfill our criteria for best teen book of the year. Plus, the teen interest in this topic is not satisfied. Nay

Vibes by Amy Kathleen Ryan

This is a story about Kristi, who can read minds. She goes to an alternative high school that has classes such as "Explorations of Nature" instead of Biology. She believes everyone hates her and thinks she's ugly. She has a crush on her ex-best friend's brother. She is so self absorbed that she doesn't realize one of her closest friends is gay. She has kept a cat in her house with out her allergy ridden mother ever finding out. Her father also ran off 2 years before to work in Africa and she blames it all on her mother. But in the end when her father finally returns home she learns there is much more to the story and she starts to open her eyes to what is going on around her. A good book, but not great, that leaves you wondering at the end "so can she read minds?" I'm nay.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sword by Da Chen

On Miu Miu's fifteenth birthday, she is not visited by the matchmaker as is custom.  Instead she learns the truth of her father's death (he died before she was born) and subsequently leaves on a quest to avenge his death. Meeting up with her betrothed from before birth, Tong Ting, the two work together to kill the emperor (who killed Miu Miu's father). Although they fight bravely, they are no match for the emperor and barely survive. Miu Miu is poisoned in the fight and Tong Ting brings her home to be healed. However, since her quest failed and she still lived, she is to be beheaded for the dishonor she does her family - as is Tong Ting (for aiding Miu Miu) and Miu Miu's mother (her death buys them a painless death rather than a painful one). However, they are rescued by a friend of Miu Miu - a monk. Miu Miu and her mother, Tong Ting and his father, all journey far away to start life anew. The title comes from the fact that Miu Miu's father had been a famous sword-maker and she uses one of his final swords on her business of avenging his death. 

I really enjoyed this story and the lyrical language that Da Chen uses. I will definitely be sharing this story with others. It is a very intriguing story and the fight scenes were very reminiscent of some of the martial arts movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I really enjoyed it, but I'm not sure that the style is for everyone. I vote Yay.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How to (un)Cage a Girl by Francesca Lia Block

Slim volume of poetry filled with fairy goddesses, platform heels, father issues, and sexiness. I don't see this as a top contender, but it would be a good add to the collection for poetry loving girls. I'm going to say nay.

I am Apache by Tanya Landman

Siki, a female Apache, chooses the life of a warrior after watching her little brother's murder. Along the way she encounters the enmity of a male warrior, strives to get the approval of her mentor, and proves herself to be a fierce and loyal friend. Nothing new here. Nay.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Runemarks by Joanne Harris

Maddy Smith lives in a world based on Norse Mythology - after Ragnarok, the destruction of the gods and the world as it was. She finds out that the gods are still living and that she is the granddaughter of Odin. The new order doesn't allow magic and will "cleanse" the evil (magic-doers etc). Cleansing being an euphemism for hangings. Maddy is born with a rune (or ruin - depending on who you ask) on her hand and has a feel for magic. She has her own place in the town (she lives far from the center of the new order) until one day things happen and she is drawn into an adventure with gods and the like against the current order.  I didn't finish the novel yet.  It was interesting but just not compelling enough to be a thumb's up winner.  I think that I will want to finish the story sometime . . . but a 500+ page novel has to be very compelling to teens for them to read it. I don't think that this is compelling enough for broad teen appeal. I vote nay.

Aurelia by Anne Osterlund

I couldn't bring myself to finish this book but I'm throwing this out there to let everybody know where I fall. Aurelia is in line to the throne of her kingdom - which is creating bumps along the road at every turn in her life. Her father wants her to marry for the kingdom, while Aurelia would prefer to marry for her match and love. Meanwhile, someone wants Aurelia dead. Her old acquaintance Robert shows up to do some sleuthing in an effort to discover the fiends planning her end. All signs point to the Queen, Aurelia's stepmother. I never found out whether or not this was the case as the suspense wasn't strong enough to pull me into the plot. It is an intelligent book - but it just didn't appeal to me - and I don't think it would have strong teen appeal.

I'm going to say Nay.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Venomous by Christopher Krovatin

Locke has problems with his anger which he calls venom. And when he does get angry he tends to go overboard. Lately, venom is living closer to the surface and is getting harder for him to cope with. He soon meets and starts dating Renee who is possibly more messed up than he is which helps motivate him into seeing a new therapist. Ultimately has to decide whether to kill the venom, let the venom take over or just come to terms with his anger.

A great book that had me hooked from the start. It is is sprinkled with comic book references and Locke seeing his venom as a comic book character. Each chapter is followed by an illustration and a couple of pages of a comic book story he imagines in his mind. I love Locke's relationship with his younger brother. Really well written with lots of teen appeal. I had it with me at a teen program and the teens were arguing about who was going to read it when I finished. I give this a big thumbs up!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

War Is . . . soldiers, survivors, and storytellers talk about war

This was a thought-provoking and  . . . . well, I think Susan Bartloetti put it best (quoted on the back of the book) "This book takes my breath away. It is a gut-wrenching must-read and possibly the most important book (no, manual) kids can read about war. I hope readers of all ages will lose sleep over this book, tossing and turning as they wrestle with complex truths about our dangerous world as told by soldiers, survivors, and others."

I was deeply moved by this work.  I do have a question on it's eligibility for Thumb's Up.  The guidelines do state that it must be an original work.  I do believe that as a whole it is an original work. But it does include items that were previously published - such as some of Ernie Pyle's articles, "Masters of War" by Bob Dylan, and a few others.  There were several others copyrighted 2008 but also published elsewhere (I think) and at least one that (again, I think) was not published anywhere else.   Is this book disqualified by this set?  Or does the fact that it is as a whole, an original work (put together purposefully for young adults) make it eligible? 

A maybe.  

Monday, January 5, 2009

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

After World War II, 15 year old Evie's stepfather returns home from the war and takes her and her mom to Florida during off-season. There they meet Peter, who is 23, and a former soldier who served with her father. Evie is smitten but things begin to unravel as she learns some things that happened during the war that are unsettling. A tragedy occurs and Evie must choose between loyalty to her parents or to Peter.
This was a quick read and though I liked it, I felt Evie ricocheted too quickly between innocence and wise beyond her years, so that I found her unbelievable.
I give this a maybe.

Playing With Matches by Brian Katcher

Leon has faced his share of bullying in his 17 years but he still manages to keep his odd sense of humor though he never seems to get the girl. His new locker neighbor has seen even more bullying. When Melody was a child she was severely scared when a kerosene lamp exploded in her face. They soon become fast friends and then a little more though he does deny it for awhile. But he still holds a flame for the class beauty Amy and it soon lands him in the fire. My summery does not due this book justice. It is funny, touching and so much more. It has teen appeal, it seems pretty timeless, and it is well written. I give this a big thumbs up!

Crossing to Paradise by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Gatty has never been far from her rural English home during the Medievel period but now she finds herself a pilgrim on her way to Jerusalem with an assorted cast of characters. It isn't an easy journey. Members of her group are injured, one dies and she gets separated. It is a good historical fiction story about a girl who grows and finds hope. I liked this story but I don't see it having a broad teen appeal. It is good not great. I vote nay.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Deadville by Ron Koertge

This is the story of Ryan a boy who has spent two years trying not to exist, after the death of his beloved younger sister Molly. He spends his free time getting stoned with Andy, an overweight high school senior who deals dope, and tries to avoid his parents increasingly strained relations at home. Music is a huge part of his life, but he's been using his iPod less as a musical gateway and more as a shield from the world. Things start to change, however, when the high school popularity queen Charlotte gets thrown from her horse and ends up in the hospital in a coma. Forced to visit her bedside, he begins returning regularly, a kind of therapy for himself as much as an altruistic gesture to a near stranger he has no designs on. Along the way he cleans up his act, meets a great girl and has some enlightening conversations with the 'rents.
I really enjoyed this book. The dialogue was natural, the story and characters were engaging, and the parents were believable (I get tired of crummy descriptions of parents). Koertge throws us a bone with some small miracles and a charming ending, but there are plenty of rough spots to keep the reader on their toes. Yay.

Into the Volcano by Don Wood

This title is a highly entertaining graphic novel by award-winning picture book artist Don Wood. Sumo and his brother Duffy are pulled out of school to go to the island of Kocalaha to visit their wealthy Aunt. What they don't know is that their aunt and cousin have planned a trip to the heart of an active volcano to find their mother. If you, like I, use graphic novels to entice reluctant readers, this is a sure-to-please title. That being said, I do feel this title is too young to appeal to our age group so I'm voting Nay.