Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

No photo art yet for this, but the advanced reading copy is beautiful! The book looks old and covered in vines and very, very mysterious. Connie is a doctoral student in American history, specializing in colonial American history. At the beginning of her thesis topic search, she finds out that her grandmother had a house down the road from Salem. Over the summer, Connie has to clean the house to get it ready for sale. But, Connie likes it. And starts to hunt for a mysterious book of recipes that was used by Deliverance Dane, a woman who was excommunicated from the church back in 1692. Those of you who know your history know that 1692 means Salem Witch Trials! :) This is much better than The Heretic's Daughter. Think about The Da Vinci Code.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

While I'm Falling by Laura Moriarty, To be published 8/09

Veronica is a struggling med student working as an RA in her dorm when she finds out her parents are divorcing. It hits her hard, even though it takes awhile for her to realize it. She makes some bad choices regarding house sitting and a party and even thinks her own mother is going crazy. But her mother has reasons for acting insane. The mom's world has fallen apart, too. She's broke and homeless because she can't find a place to rent that will let her keep her sick dog. So the two women are forced together into breaking some rules and develop a stronger mother-daughter relationship.

Nation by Terry Pratchett

Hmmm...I think one reason why this won a Printz honor is because it's not your typical Terry Pratchett. I didn't even laugh out loud while reading this one, which I did when I read Wee Free Men. Instead, Pratchett writes a Robinson Crusoe/Treasure Island/Survivor adventure story.

Ermintrude is sailing to her father's island and trying to maintain civility amidst rough sailors. Mau is an island boy sent away alone to become a man. And then the wave hits. Erminstrude decides to be called Daphne as she struggles to survive on an island where Mau is her only company. The two communicate and start to build their own nation. Islanders begin arriving, looking for Nation survivors amidst all the death and destruction. Their nation grows strong, as does Mau and Daphne. When Daphne's father finally finds her, she is a different girl--openly independent as she has learned to saw off injured limbs, deliver babies, defend her friends, and even make beer. She must decide to stay or go, especially after her father is granted with a nation's responsibilities on his shoulders. Which nation will she choose?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

I couldn't wait to get my hands on this YA novel! It won a Printz honor in 2009 and I've loved her previous books, Dramarama and The Boyfriend List series. I wondered how she changed her chick lit style to garner the attention of the Printz committee.

Frankie is awesome. She's brilliant and we know she ends up changing the world later. But this is her story of her years at a snotty prep school. She matures one summer and starts dating a popular boy at school who is constantly breaking dates and running off with his friends. So what does she do? Follow him. And then obsessively follow him. And figure out all about the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, a society of popular boys. But then she secretly takes over the society and their pranks until she realizes that the entire school is under her control. But, um, this is all kinda freaky, right? A boy gets expelled because of her. And her boyfriend STILL doesn't understand her whys and hows. Or even try to care about her. So what exactly was her motivation again?

Please, please tell me what happens to Frankie in college. Please !

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg

This cute little graphic novel tells a story about how four girls named Jane/Jayne/whatever the spelling you want decide to spice things up in their boring little suburban town. They start P.L.A.I.N, People Loving Art in Neighborhoods. They decorate fire hydrants with scarves and burst into song at noon. And they start recruiting. Soon even the cheerleaders are claiming to be members of P.L.A.I.N, even though cops and school officers are claiming the art is vandalism. A subplot is that Jane is one of the few survivors of a bombing in Metro City, along with a man called John Doe. I thought the story of the Janes was much more entertaining.

Street Love by Walter Dean Myers

Well, it finally happened! I read a Myers book that I didn't like. I found myself reading this one aloud quite often. It's written in verse format, but still actually reads like poetry, and I'm more of a fan of verse novels. I just can't imagine two kids talking like they do in this book, so I couldn't into the plot.

"Damien, so are you saying
You're ready to fly?
Cop some getaway like all the other sleek
Birds winging through distant trees with just
An occasional peek
Now and then and a slanted rap about
Old school memories?"

I just couldn't get into this! It's supposed to be a love story, but I didn't see how the two fell in love when they barely speak in the book. But, hey, maybe I'm a cynic? :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin, Read by Daniel Passer

I listened to the unabridged audio version of this stunningly sad, yet uplifting young adult novel. I've read Werlin's Double Helix and was shocked that she could write just gritty, realistic fiction, too.

Matthew is 17 with two sisters and an abusive mother. His mother is bipolar (I think) although we never find out an exact diagnosis. She puts their lives at risk, forgets to do important mom things, and just goes crazy a lot. So Matthew writes everything down and addresses it to his younger sister Emmy. And, wow, what a story. It's amazing that a stranger is the one who ends up helping these kids. Sad, but amazing. Talk about your bibliotherapy....

Hoops of Steel by John Foley

I think I've been spoiled by Chris Crutcher's books, so I'm a bit jaded when I read a sports book by anyone else. But, at least this YA basketball novel is for high school students, rather than the plethora of junior high titles that are out there.

Jackson O'Connell somehow thinks he can get a Div I scholarship going into his senior year, even though he never started last year. Um, hello? Reality, please? Of course, his coach is more interested in building next year's team so Jackson doesn't get much playing time. There is a girl, of course. And some family drama.

So, I call this an "okay" basketball book. But I'd recommend My Losing Season first.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

I couldn't help but feel I was getting preached to as I read this YA novel. Yes, I learned a lot about why Muslim women in Australia choose to wear the hajab. or traditional head covering. But I felt like there was too much of a sociology or history lesson thrown in. Heck, there was even stuff about Orthodox Judaism and traditional Japanese culture. I would have liked Randa's tale better if I weren't being instructed, and instead, just learned as I read a good story. There just wasn't a good enough story here for me.

I Don't Want to Be Crazy by Samantha Schutz

I would have loved this book in junior high. It's your typical tale of a girl with problems. Samantha started to have panic attacks in college, and later wrote this YA autobiography in verse to tell us about it. And, um, that's about all I have to say. Published by Scholastic Push, just like Tyrell. Some of my female students love books like these.

Tyrell by Coe Booth

I know my students loved this title, so I wanted to read it and see why. Wow. Urban fiction. You gotta love it. Makes me thankful to grow up where I did and how I did. Because Tyrell has tons of crap to put up with and he's only 15. He grew up in the projects in NYC, but his dad's DJ-ing business (plus side jobs) keep landing him in prison. And when dad's in prison, mom is useless. Tyrell is trying to raise his little brother right, but it's hard when living in nasty motels and temporary housing because his mom won't go get a job. Tyrell doesn't want to be a drug dealer or a pimp, but he drops out of school because, well, just because. A party he throws might be the ticket out of temporary housing, but who knows? Tyrell has good intentions, but his decisions are still something to think about. But when you add in how he was raised, and where, it's easy to see why he does the things he does.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Black and White by Paul Volponi

I figured I needed to read this quick little YA sports book to see if I could recommend it to teens. I actually read it years ago, but didn't blog about it so I completely forgot about it until I was about halfway through.

Marcus and Eddie are best friends, known as "Black" and "White" because of the color of their skin. They're both star basketball players for an inner city team and both plan on playing Div I in college. But when money is tight, they decide to use Eddie's grandfather's gun to scare up some funds. Why not hold up a few people to raise the money they need for Senior dues and new basketball shoes? So they do. But the gun goes off, a man is hurt, and witnesses recognize them. But the race card is far from over in this quick little book. Marcus is recognized, Eddie isn't. And the justice system takes it from there.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I was so anxious to read this YA novel to see what the fuss was all about! I felt like I was reading a novelization of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery." I enjoyed the book, and fled through it, but am not quite sure why it got the rave reviews. And I'm actually glad it didn't receive the Printz or honors because it doesn't bring anything new to the field of YA lit. Don't get me wrong--I'll recommend this to tons of kids, but I couldn't stop thinking that it had been done before in "The Lottery" and some other book that I can't think of right now.

The Capitol does The Hunger Games annually in all 12 districts to keep them in awe of the Capitol's greatness. Names of kids/teenagers are drawn, and two from each district must fight to the death in the Hunger Games. Katniss's younger sister's name is drawn, but she volunteers to fight in her younger sister's place. Katniss has always been a survivor. She can hunt with a bow-and-arrow, set snares, and find ways to survive in starving times. But this is different. This time she is fighting humans who want to kill her. And it is ALL televised and controlled by the Capitol government. Fun, fun!

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, Read by Mike Chamberlain

Anderson won the lifetime Margaret Edwards award so I wanted to make sure I read everything by her to see why she won! Twisted is a great book and not what I was expecting at all. First of all, the book is written from a boy's point-of-view, Tyler. Tyler is a nerdy boy who decides to change his reputation by spray painting his school. The act works. Some. He has to do community service for his actions, working for the school janitors in the summer, as well as for a local landscaping business. When Tyler comes back to school, he's cut and even the popular girls are noticing. Bethany, the girl of his dreams, lets him into her life, even if it means putting up with her evil, popular older brother. But Tyler's life is twisted and his family is dysfunctional. Everything drives Tyler to a breaking point--run away? suicide? shut up and put up? Which will it be?

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Good Guy by Dean Koontz

Well, it's another Dean Koontz novel. I swear, he should stick to writing mystery. I found myself smirking when listening to the descriptive adjectives. And rolling my eyes, especially toward the end. I mean, really. He isn't know for beautiful writing, but it seemed like he was trying to go there.

Tim Carrier gets sucked into a murder-for-hire. Once he meets the girl, he wants to save her, and thus begins a whirlwind of a weekend. First, I hate when they never call the cops right away. Secondly, I hate when the bad guy has every available technology to use immediately at his disposal. Thirdly, I hate when there is a government conspiracy involved. Maybe I've read too many of these novels? ARGH!!!!!!!