Monday, May 31, 2010

Tunnels by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams

I knew this children's fantasy was a hit because I always saw it in the bookstore. It's a good mystery, with another world created beneath London. Fourteen-year-old Will is always digging where he isn't supposed to, trying to find treasures to give to his eccentric dad. But this time Will and his muscular friend Chester find something underground that doesn't want to be found. Will's dad disappears, and Will just knows that he is down in the tunnels. And so the two boys try to find him. The tunnels are dangerous though, and filled with people who don't want to be found, including people masquerading as normal humans up above.

The sequels, Deeper, Freefall, and Closer continue the story, but I don't think I'll continue--it's a little too young for me, and I didn't really get into the book until about halfway through.

Never Slow Dance with A Zombie by E. Van Lowe

Sometimes I feel like I wasted two hours of my life reading a book. And, um, this is one of those. For Popular Paperbacks, I'm on the Zombie/Werewolf/Things with Wings committee, and I'm started to really mourn the lack of "good" writing and zombies. Come on, writers! If you're going to go with zombies, can't you make it awesome? Toby Barlow made werewolves awesome a few years ago with Sharp Teeth. Scott Westerfeld and M.T. Anderson made vampires awesome with Peeps and Thirsty.

Pet Peeve #1. The main character Margot is shallow, annoying, a backstabber, and desperate to be popular, even if the popular kids are zombies. Geesh. The obsession with cliques is a bit overwhelming.

Pet Peeve #2-#5. The plot doesn't work. The dialogue is stilted. The characters are untouchable. The addition of zombies decreases the book value.

Best two things about the book? The title and cover. Those are pretty cool. Unfortunately, they will trick teens in bookstores. I can't see many kids liking this book much--it's not even good fluffy reading.

And woe to the next zombie book I pick up, because it's going to need to kick some ass for me to blog nice about zombies. I've about had enough.

The Boxer and the Spy by Robert B. Parker

I might be one of the few adults who hasn't read a Robert B. Parker novel, so why not start with one of his young adult titles? I remember discussion of this mystery at a Abe Lincoln book award meeting a few years ago so I thought I'd give it a try.

Terry Novak is fifteen and in training to be a boxer. When classmate Jason Green's body turns up dead on the shore, Terry starts asking questions. Unfortunately Parker uses the author's technique called All Adults Are Idiots, which I'm not a big fan of. But, hey, I'm not 13 either. Some authority figures are scamming the school and town and Terry and his maybe-girlfriend get right in the thick of things. Fists fly and mysteries are solved!

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stief Larsson, Read by Simon Vance

Back in March I blogged about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and I finished this sequel right in time for the third book! I'm on hold for the audiobook and figure I'll get it sometime this summer--maybe. :)

Mikael Blomkvist is back and on a quest to save the life of his friend and former lover Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth is wanted for the murder of three people and Mikael slowly convinces the police and others that she isn't guilty. To save Lisbeth, the secrets of her past must be revealed, and, ewww, does she have a horrible past. Lisbeth must allow Mikael into her life, even though she hates to, and the two of them must solve the murders, clear Lisbeth's name, and save the world. Okay, maybe not save the world. Just save Sweden then.

I'm looking forward to The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, and praying it's about Lisbeth, too!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten

At first I thought this was your typical light, fluffy teen chick lit book, but it soon took a twisted plot path. Ellie's sister Nina disappeared two years ago, and everyone thinks she just ran away. After all, Nina was 18, wild, and dyed her hair funny colors. But Ellie is afraid something else is wrong and can't stop thinking about her missing older sister. Some clues start to appear about her sister's whereabouts and Ellie enlists the help of a cute boy she met at a party. Like a John Green novel, the young couple take off on a road trip, following the clues the sister left behind. But things start to happen. Sean, Ellie's new boyfriend, may not be who he says he is. And Amanda, Ellie's best friend, is afraid things are taking a turn for the worse. But Ellie is determined to find her sister. Even if her own life is in danger.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Somebody Everybody Listens To by Suzanne Supplee

I need to read this author's Artichoke's Heart (on the current Abe Lincoln list), so I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed I had picked up this Advance Reading Copy at ALA Midwinter in January. It's a sweet, quiet read about a young lady who decides to make it big as a country singer.

Retta Lee Jones has always been a singer and guitar player, even though her money tends to go to her parents, instead of toward a trip to Nashville. But after high school graduation, she decides to risk everything and leave. And, like what you hear in stories, things don't quite work out, but then things do. The music business doesn't drop in her lap, but she makes friends and things start happening for her just because she stays true to herself.

The chapter headings are interesting, giving the reader little known info about country music stars and how they made it big.

Sweet, soft read for girls interested in American Idol, country music, or just a positive story where things end up okay.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Me, My Elf & I by Heather Swain

I can't remember the last book I read about an elf, let alone a chick lit book! So this YA novel was cute, refreshing, and needed in the world of realistic fiction and vampires of today's lit.

Zephra ia a teenage elf who has grown up in a secluded town of elves in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Her dad is a growing folk artist, and the family moves to New York City so that he can record videos and expand his art. Zephra is excited because she is able to enroll in NYC's performing arts school, where she will be able to sing, act and perform to her heart's content. But first she must learn how to be herself in a world of erdlers (humans). Humans aren't always nice and Zephra learns the hard way. Bella is the popular, rich, famous girl at school who is jealous and wants to ruin Zephra. Timber is the cute ex-pop star who is dating Bella and showing interest in Zephra. And Mercedes and Ari are the students who adopt Zephra as their friend. All in all, this is a cute read with a great chick lit cover. It even has glitter!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thereby Hangs a Tail: A Chet and Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn

I'm a huge fan of Chet and Bernie and their first book, Dog On It, so I was looking forward to reading the sequel. Why? Because Chet the dog is one heck of a narrator. His ADHD seems to be just like a real dog, so be ready for interruptions of fast moving objects and interesting smells. Once again, Chet solves the mystery first and it takes awhile for his private investigator owner to catch up. Princess, an award winning white poofball dog, is kidnapped, along with her millionaire owner. Chet and Bernie are on the case and grow increasingly concerned when Bernie's girlfriend reporter disappears, too. I'll steal a quote from Stephen King about Dog On It: "Spencer Quinn speaks two languages--suspense and dog--fluently."

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck, Read by Ron McLarty

I'm a fan of Richard Peck's works (see On the Wings of Heroes) and especially loved the Newbery Medal winner A Year Down Yonder and the Newbery honor winner A Long Way from Chicago. This holiday little book continues the tale of Grandma Dowdel, but introduces a new family--the Barnhardts. The father is a Methodist preacher and the twelve-year-old son, Bob, is the narrator. Bob is caught halfway to being grownup and he deals with his family's poverty and moving to a new town in an easy way. Mrs. Dowdel goes from being the scary witch in the neighborhood to an angel in disguise. Toting a shotgun, of course.

Once again, the narrator disappointed me by mispronouncing Bement and Sangamon River. I don't understand why Taped Editions wouldn't contact someone local (or even the author!) to make sure places were pronounced correctly.

Death by Bikini by Linda Gerber

Aphra has a dream job--helping her dad on their ritzy resort on a secluded island in the Caribbean. She enjoys it, but wonders what her life would be like stateside. She also wonders about her mother who left them when the family bought the resort. Now Aphra is a teenager who has to help solve a murder. A woman has washed up on the beach with a bikini around her neck and Aphra starts to figure out who did it. There's a mysterious family staying in a bungalow where no one should be living. Her dad is keeping his mouth shut and her mom is involved somehow.

It's not often you find chick lit with mystery for teens, so this fills a niche. Read Death by Latte and its sequel to keep reading about Aphra.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

I've already placed the sequel The Dead-Tossed Waves on hold, does that tell you something?

I'm not a huge fan of zombie novels, so I loved the dark fantasy feel of this one. Mary lives in a world of fences and the zombies who live on the other side. But the word "zombie" is never used, instead they live in fear of the "unconsecrated" whose thirst never tires for blood. The change is quick in the newly dead, and Mary sees her own mother change. Uplifting? No. Mary's world is depressing and the number of humans is diminishing. But her mother's stories of the ocean gives her hope. She believes there is something else out there. And when Gabrielle appears from the forest, Mary knows there is more than the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson, Ready by Dion Graham

I can easily see why the production of this novel for children won the Odyssey Honor Award this year. Wow, I'm impressed! First of all, I've never read much Woodson, even though I know she's a Newbery-National Book-Honor and just about everything else winner. She's a great writer who usually tackles inner city life. I never read Locomotion, but was perfectly able to understand this novel, supposedly for kids in grades 4-7.

Lonnie Collins (aka Locomotion) is a poet and his narrative is sweet. These are his letters to his sister who is in a different foster home. The two of them are lucky to be in good homes, and his letters tell simple things about his life, but are heart wrenching. He falls in love with his nice substitute teacher. He's worried about his foster brother (who he's never met) coming home from the war. But the plot isn't what drives this sweet novel. It's the voice of Lonnie. Can I give him a hug now? :)

Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian

I was a fan of Bohjalian's The Double Bind so I was expecting great things from this adult audiobook. Told from multiple viewpoints, we learn the story of a married couple's death. Rev. Drew is the married woman's pastor, who did more than just counsel her. Heather Laurent, a famous author who writes stories about her own parents' murder-suicide, might be a conspirator since she becomes romantically involved with Rev. Drew. The deputy state's attorney is concerned that the crime isn't a simple murder-suicide. And the married couple's teenage daughter reveals even more secrets.

The book was entertaining, but the last viewpoint, the daughter's, grew old. I had already guessed what had happened, so the plot didn't surprise me and the teenage voice was tiring by the last CD. I want more complication, Bohjalian, and less explanation of teenage angst! :)