Friday, April 30, 2010

Wake by Lisa McMann

I think I'm too old for this young adult book. I just didn't like the abrupt sentence structure and simplistic thought process of the characters. To me, it just isn't well written and the characters aren't bright. Janie is seventeen and has been dealing with getting into other people's dreams for years. She hates it, can't control it, and wonders how she will ever survive. Oh, and then the boy Cabel comes along. He's trouble (maybe) and Janie does the typical teenage angst thing by liking him, getting mad at him, and then ignoring him. Come on, girl--that is so 1980's teen lit! So to me, there's no "lyrical" going on--and I won't read the sequel. I think this will be popular with the lower level readers of my high school who don't want to think much as they read.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tenderness by Robert Cormier

Wow. So, um, this book kinda freaked me out. And for that reason, teens will like it. The YA novels follows two characters--Eric and Lori. Lori is a runaway who has an adult body and knows how to use it. She runs away a lot from her mother who isn't a good mother and her mom's boyfriends who are a little too friendly. Lori's always on the lookout for tenderness--and it's always in the arms of a man. Messed up, eh?

Eric is worse. He looks for tenderness and happiness in the animals and people he kills. He murders his mom and stepfather and serves a few years in jail as a juvenile. But now he's 18 and released, and his psychopath abilities are urging him to kill again.

These two lovely characters come together and destroy each other, but not in the way you might think....Don't expect to smile as you read this dark, disturbing tale.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Never Trust a Dead Man by Vivian Vande Velde

This old YA novel ( 1999) read like a comedy skit--think The Princess Bride. It's a quick little read about Selwyn, who is accused of murdering Farold. Farold was engaged to marry the woman Selwyn loves, so Selwyn is a natural suspect in the murder. And, Farold was murdered with Selwyn's "lost" knife. Whoops. As punishment for murder, Selwyn is locked in a cave with Farold's dead body. What a way to start a story, eh?

But an old witch rescues Selwyn, brings Farold back to life (as a bat, of course) and the two venture into town to discover the true murderer. The plotline is quirky and the characters interesting, and the plot comes to a satisfying conclusion. Cute read for light fantasy readers.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New York by Edward Rutherfurd, Read by Mark Bramhall

30 CDs. I think this is the longest audiobook I've ever listened to! I was trying to remember how long the Harry Potters were, but I think this one wins.

And, ohhhh, it was good. I love me a good epic, and Rutherfurd always delivers. This looooong adult novel covers the history of New York from the natives on Manhattan island to the fall of the World Trade Center. Several families are followed along the way, and the intertwining of them all makes the epic fascinating to follow. This kind of book is why readers like me score well on standardized tests--it's amazing how much a reader learns about history, the arts, political science, and just about everything else. The author is one heck of a storyteller. I loved his London, The Princes of Ireland, and Sarum, and I'll continue to read his new ones. I think he's a modern day Michener.

Down the Rabbit Hole: an Echo Falls Mystery by Peter Abrahams

I've had two of Abrahams' mysteries on my library shelf and never looked twice at them? Why? Because of the horrible covers. I thought they were for middle school kids and I had mis-read a review in a review journal. So I was pleasantly surprised when I enjoyed this YA read. I thought it read like Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie for younger readers.

Ingrid is a spunky eighth grader who is involved with her town's local production of Alice in Wonderland and a murder. Cracked Up Katie, the local strange woman, dies the same night that Ingrid is inside her house. And leaves her soccer cleats. So Ingrid is on a mission to rescue her shoes and make sure she isn't accused of any wrongdoing. Along the way, she solves the mystery (of course). The plus side of this novel is the occasional snarkiness of Ingrid. She's pretty cool!

The Killer's Cousin by Nancy Werlin

Sometimes students are looking for a good mystery, and Nancy Werlin is good for that. This book was published back in 1998, so I wish the cover looked a bit more modern, but at least it's still in print!

David is seventeen and was recently on trial for the murder of his girlfriend. Therein is one mystery--how did she die? Why was he tried? Why does he have to move away from his hometown? The book opens with David moving into an apartment of his aunt and uncle's in Cambridge. He's repeating his senior year of high school and starting over with no friends in a new town. But a young college artist befriends him and so does a boy at school. The second mystery is that his cousin Kathy committed suicide at age 18 in his apartment, but the family hasn't recovered. Kathy's parents don't speak to each other and Kathy's younger sister is a little hellion who makes David's life miserable.

One thing that really bothered me about this YA novel is that David's voice isn't authentic. It's too old for his age, no matter what his circumstances are. Would a 18-year-old kid really think, "I wondered why the skinhead at school chose to expose his differentness so openly"? I don't think so. There were several other moments where the characterization just didn't feel right. The plot moves along quickly though, so some kids will just ignore the things that bugged me. :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ellen Hopkins Visits PCHS!

Thanks to some lucky card swiping at last year's ALA conference, I won a visit from Ellen Hopkins (Thanks Simon & Schuster!). Today she spoke to our entire student body about her books, her writing process, and how Crank, Glass and Fallout (coming in September) are based on her daughter's experience with meth. She signed books after the session, and many students purchased multiple copies for her to sign. Thanks, Ellen and S&S, for bringing an author to Paris, Illinois!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fashionably Late by Beth Kendrick

I'm a huge Project Runway nut so I like reading books about fashion, too. And those who have seen me dress know that this is a very strange obsession, since fashion is *not* what I'm known for. :)

Becca Davis (the character has the same name as my friend who sings opera!) has been dating Kevin for five years and he has their future mapped out. But when he springs for a ring and a house, she panics and realizes that she has to try to capture her dream of being a fashion designer before it's too late. Becca runs to Los Angeles to live with her sister, but Hollywood isn't too kind to the Davis sisters. Becca's sister becomes pregnant with twins and poor in the same week. Becca gets swindled by a star's agent and can't handle dating a handsome, risk-taking older man. But love comes around and Becca's life starts turning around. Of course! This is a romance novel! :)

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Passage by Justin Cronin

To be published June 8, 2010.

Random House couldn't stop talking about this new adult book back in January, so I decided to give it a try on Spring Break. Who wouldn't like an author who is compared to Stephen King or Michael Crichton? After finally finishing the 704 page rock, I do see the similarities. It's science fiction, a post-apocalyptic warning, adventure, romance and mystery. But, heck, in 704 pages, the author should be able to throw everything into the pot, right?

The best part of the book is Part I (until page 190). I was hooked and speed reading. The suspense is awesome. Buttttt, then the middle of the book comes along. Seems to me some tighter editing would have helped, and maybe the final copy will be missing a few pages. I mean, really, Biblical characters wandered around the desert for 90 days, but we didn't read about it for ninety pages. I think 200 pages could have been cut out and I wouldn't have missed them. I'm going to try to get some student readers, but I'm not sure I can attract them with the length. I'll pass it onto some Hunger Games readers and see what reaction I get....

Seduced by a Spy by Andrea Pickens

We all need vacation reads, and, by the cover, I figured this would be a good one! It was a little cheesy for my taste, but at least it was a quick read.

Shannon is a recent graduate of Mrs. Merlin's Academy for Select Young Ladies and she has been trained to take care of business. She maims, kills, seduces, and follows orders, all in the name of the English government. Think of this as a grown up version of Ally Carter's I'd Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You and Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy. Of course, there is a handsome Russian spy Shannon has to work with. And, of course, they are attracted to each other, but rude at first. But, of course, things work out by the end of the book.

The plot has been done before, but sometimes we just need to read fluffy books!

Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

I remember being bored as I read Life of Pi, but then floored by the ending, so I was hoping this novel would be the same. Unfortunately, I never found out. I stopped on page 70 (out of 195) because I just couldn't take it anymore. I'm not a fan of existentialism and I really hate reading about authors who try to write about themselves in a fancy way. I'll admit I was an English major, but that doesn't mean I have to like highbrow literature. And I feel like this author is trying to write something to be talked about at cocktail parties by people in black-rimmed glasses and turtlenecks. And, um, I'm a high school librarian who doesn't like to waste her time. So I stopped reading.