Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. Book 2 of The Lunar Chronicles

I was a fan of Cinder, the first book in this series, and I've had the autographed ARC of this title on my shelf for more than a year! And I'm glad I picked it up!

Scarlet wears her red hoodie proudly as she delivers food in France in her grandma's spaceship.  When her grandma is kidnapped, Scarlet wants to find her and discover the family secrets.

Meanwhile (continued from Book One) Cinder is on the run from the Empire and the Lunar Queen and knows why she's wanted.  Cinder is part Lunar and part cyborg--she can use the screwdriver in her finger AND force people to do what she wants.  It's a lot of power and she doesn't want to use it evilly like the Queen.

Scarlet and Cinder are thrown together (of course) in some great fight scenes--love the fast pace of this novel.  Really, you can't go wrong with sci-fi twisted fairy tales! Book 3, Cress, is already out so I'll have to order it soon!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Center of Everything by Linda Urban

This is a quiet read for middle schoolers, so it's not my cup of tea.  I understand there are readers for this type of book out there though!

Twelve-year-old Ruby Pepperdine is trying to figure out how to deal with the recent death of her grandmother while she's waiting to read her winning essay about Capt. Bunning, the man who founded her town and brought the doughnuts to America.  I was thankful that the author ended the novel with a note explaining that Capt. Bunning was made up--I was afraid that readers wouldn't know!

Panic by Sharon Draper

Interesting storyline, but Draper just didn't make it work. Perhaps there was so much going on that I couldn't be emotionally vested in any of the characters?

Dance is life for every character in this book, and they are all excited about the studio's upcoming production of Peter Pan.  However, Diamond disappears from the mall with a strange man. This is a kidnapping story, but Diamond was stupid enough to get into a vehicle with a man who promised her a role in a movie.  I couldn't help but roll my eyes at her stupidity. 

And then....

Layla is involved in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend Donovan. He leaves bruises on her and is jealous of her dancing.  She allows him to take topless photos of her and, of course, he texts them to everyone when they break up. 

The combination of these storylines is what didn't work with me.  Either one could have filled a YA book, but the combination led me to compare them.  Was Draper really comparing two types of kiddie porn--online sex videos with drugged teen girls and topless photos distributed by ex-boyfriends?

For some reason, I wanted more Layla and Justin (the only male dancer) and less Diamond and Donovan.  The Ds weren't fleshed out--I didn't know enough about them to care, even if one was kidnapped and one became a loser when he started hanging out with the wrong crowd. 

However, I have a feeling that some reluctant readers will enjoy this one--lots of action and no character development.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Three by Kristen Simmons

So I don't think I read book two in this series, so I was a little lost.  But it's still readable!

Ember and her boyfriend Chase are still on the run from the government.  They take refuge with a rebel group called Three (how appropriate since this is the third book in the trilogy!).  The action is non-stop because they are always on the run.  There's lots of backstabbing, double-crossing, and taking chances, but, of course, most things end up okay.  Don't get too attached to some of the characters though....

I'm a bit burned out on dystopia, but this one is better than some of the others I've read lately.  Give this series to students who love Hunger Games and Divergent.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher

This is a re-read for me--read it back when it was published in the early nineties.  Wow--this book has been around since I was in high school!  Some of the stories are a bit dated, so I guess we can call this short story collection historical fiction. 

In typical Chris Crutcher fashion, he tackles racism, bigotry, homosexuality, weight issues, and about everything else teens deal with in a straight-forward, non-preachy way.  Some of these stories star characters from his previous novels, so it's familiar to find out more about them. You can't go wrong with the short story about Angus, which Crutcher turned into a screenplay for this movie from 1995:

And the short story about a teenage boy who meets a gay man who is dying from AIDS.  I forgot how much people feared AIDS back then--back when people died from it more often.

If you've never read Crutcher (and you should have), this book is a great introduction to some of his best characters--read it!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Lovely cover, isn't it? Victoria Darling is a young girl trying to become more independent, but she's been raised in an elite family in early 1900's London.  Her family is new money and she's been raised to marry well, not cause any trouble, and increase the family fortune by marrying up.  The only problem is that Vicky loves art and hopes to study at an established art school.  She's kicked out of her French boarding school when it's discovered that she posed nude for fellow artists during a class and her family has to try to re-establish her reputation by marrying her off soon.

This novel is full of contradictions to me.  I love that Vicky gets involved with suffragettes, even if it is just to draw them and increase her own portfolio.  Vicky never does really grow up--she's very selfish, so it's hard to like her. Even when she's trying to make it on her own, she can't get used to not having servants and not acting like the world owes her everything.  I always have trouble liking a novel when I don't like the main character. 

A Mad, Wicked Folly is a debut novel for Waller, and I am looking forward to her next one. If the main character isn't someone so stereotypical in behavior and thought processes, I think it will be a great read.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier

To be published July 15, 2014.

Sometimes I'm in the mood for a great adult suspense novel, and, boy, did Edelweiss provide me with one!

Back in the 80's, policeman Edward Shank became a hero and eventually the police chief for gunning down "The Beacon Hill Butcher." The serial killer targeted women and had a grisly signature--cutting off a hand.

Now it's modern times and Edward's grandson inherits the family home with the Chief moving into a retirement village.  Matt is a young chef focused on making it big in the foodie world of Seattle. He's already been on the Food Network for his food trucks and now hopes to have a reality show based in his restaurant.  He's dating Sam, who is writing another true crime book--this time about the Beacon Hill Butcher, mainly because she believes her own mother was killed by the Butcher a few years after he was supposedly killed.  What really happened that night?

This is full of tight twists, plenty of suspense, and will keep you reading until you finish it.  Plus, you'll like Matt and Sam, which makes the storyline move even faster!

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith.

To be published September 2014. 

That's right, folks.  The lovely Andrew Smith is publishing a second novel in 2014--yay! The first one, Grasshopper Jungle, will get some Printz award in January, I believe. This second novel, I believe, will be more popular with the masses, i.e. teenagers. 

Finn is a teenage boy who is coming-of-age with an awesome best friend named Cade and a move-in-from-Chicago love interest in Julia.

And that's all I'm going to tell you for right now until this book is published.  I will, however, leave you with some quotes from the awesome novel.  Don't forget I read the downloadable version of this novel from Edelweiss, so these quotes don't have page numbers and they may change with the final copy of the book.  But these are lines that made me laugh.  Smith is a genius with words and the teenage mind.

"Sometimes kids just have to write off lost articles of clothing at the end of a party."

"Markie was an okay guy, just a little tightly wound and twitchy. You get that way playing shortstop, where it is so easy to make costly mistakes, which are closely related to extinction."

"Julia Bishop was like an undressing, sleeping-bag ninja."

"The whole married-woman thing was a matter for ethics, which they do not teach teenage boys at Burnt Mill Creek High School."

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

To be published April 8, 2014.

Sigh. I really wanted to love this book because I enjoyed The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (at least the first books in the series). But this fell flat to me.

Prenna Jones time travels from the future to contemporary America and tries to fit in. She is supposed to follow the rules (so as not to upset the future), but she falls in love with a boy and screws everything up! She also speaks her mind (that's a no, no) and tries to think for herself.  She rebels against her mom, the establishment, and, of course, ends up changing everything for the better.  This plot has been done before and often.

I'm all for reading books with similar plots if they are done well--like The Testing for The Hunger Games.

But I found myself wanting developed characters in this novel.  For example, Prenna's friend Katherine is just a dud.  We don't know her and don't care to. I didn't care too much about Prenna and her love interest, Ethan. The two of them set off on such an outrageous adventure that I kept rolling my eyes and saying, "Really?" And, like in many time travel novels, the coincidences just don't add up to me. 

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

I raved over Whaley's debut novel, Where Things Come Back, and so did the rest of the world because it won the Morris Award AND the Printz Award in 2012.  That's a hard book to follow!

So you'll think this is a stupid book if I give you a one-sentence summary.  Ready? Here I go. 

Travis Coates is dying of cancer so he agrees to have his head chopped off and saved by science to be reattached five years later to the body of another teenage boy.

Okay, you think I'm crazy for loving this book, right? But you forget who the author is--this is JOHN COREY WHALEY. 
And he knows how to write.  Well.  He manages to take a crazy idea, make it seem possible, and take readers deep into the noggin of Travis, his family members, and friends.  This is a tale of heartache, coming of age and love and loss.  With a great cover.  Just read it.   And give it to fans of John Green, A. S. King, and Andrew Smith.