Friday, March 26, 2010

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

Sometimes I forget things. For example, I interlibrary loaned this young adult title, and I have absolutely no idea why. Did I hear someone talk about it at conference? Did I read a review somewhere that made me want to read it? I absolutely have no freakin' idea. And that bugs me.

This is another teenage pregnancy book, but what makes it different (to me) is that Ellie gives the baby up for adoption. The author also tackles how the baby affects his father, Josh, who has no contact with the mother at all. Ellie and Josh were only together one night--she wanted a relationship (maybe) and he had heard that she was a willing girl. But Josh does a heart, even though his family is dysfunctional. And Ellie's mother does care, even though she acts like she doesn't. The damaged lives of these two characters is balanced by the positive characters of Corinne and Caleb. Corinne is Ellie's best friend and provides the support she needs. Caleb is Josh's friend and Caleb's mother ends up being the positive adult support Ellie needs during her pregnancy.

Will I buy this book for PCHS? Yes. I have girls who read everything I have on teenage pregnancy. This topic hits home for PCHS, and I think I need to purchase more books about adoption to let students know that they can provide a better home for their children. And survive.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

One of my students is reading all of Julie Anne Peters' novels and I thought this one looked pretty darn good. What a cover, huh? Love the red rose petals floating down on the girl in the bathtub. Add in the title and you can tell this is a book about teenage suicide.

Daelyn has tried committing suicide before and failed. She has slit her wrists and she has had a lovely cocktail of bleach and ammonia and severely damaged her vocal cords and throat. She isn't fat anymore, but her silence and emotional instability still make her an outsider. Her parents move from town-to-town with every new attempt, and that doesn't help either. Neither does the therapy. And so Daelyn finds a website that will help her plan her death and serve as an outlet for her frustration. The chapter headings serve as the countdown to her death--23 days left. But even as she tries to keep everyone out, hope sneaks in. Maybe. There is a boy who won't leave her alone. And her parents keep trying to use the techniques the therapist taught them. And her antidepressants might be starting to work. And she can take the neck brace off now and eat pizza instead of blenderized food. Maybe there is hope. Maybe.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Last year I started reading The Girl Who Played with Fire and discovered that, hey, it's a sequel! So I figured I should read the first book first. I must admit though that I thought the second book was a bit wordy (maybe because of the translation?) so I cheated and interlibrary loaned the abridged audiobook. And, whoa, even the abridgment was boring at the beginning. It was 6 CDs and I didn't get interested until the end of the 3rd disk. I knew it was a bestseller, so I thought it would be a bit more fast paced and not as cheesy.

Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist who has fallen on hard times and takes a position researching a disappearance in the 1960s. Of course, he's smart enough to dig up more clues, but mainly with the help of Lisbeth Salander, the 24-year-old character who steals the show. Salander is cool and mysterious and able to kick some serious booty, and the sequel will give us more info about her, I'm sure.

The author died back in 2004, which led to the popularity of these titles, I'm sure. I don't think they would be such a hit if he were still cranking out sequels.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

I knew this young adult novel caused a stir back in 2009, but I'm a bit behind the times with my YA reading and trying desperately to catch up before I begin reading for the Popular Paperbacks committee this year. I'm reading for the Crime Scene: May cause anxiety...don't read at home alone and Zombie, Werewolves & Things with Wings: Because vampires suck!

I picked up the sequel to Marcelo in the Real World at ALA Midwinter and now can't wait to attack it, even though I going to read one other YA title in between, just for the fun of it. I'm hoping the story of Marcelo percolates a bit in my brain. It was just that good.

I went into this novel knowing it had been compared to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. I enjoyed that title and was hoping I wasn't just reading a more recent publication of a boy with autism. But, oh, no. Marcelo is better. Marcelo is a young man, almost a senior in high school, who has Asperger's Syndrome. His life has been pretty comfortable so far--he attends a private school for special needs kids and is looking forward to caring for the horses for the summer. But then his dad decides that Marcelo needs to work in his law firm for the summer. To work in the "real world." And Marcelo, though scared, does. He works in the mail room, slowly, yet accurately, with Jasmine, a nice young lady who helps him out. But the real world sucks Marcelo in. He finds out that there is evil in the world and his dad isn't the hero he thought he was. A simple picture of an injured girl changes Marcelo's world.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

The only reason I picked up Shiver a week or so ago was because I had picked up the Advance Reading Copy of its sequel, Linger, at ALA Midwinter in Boston. I knew Shiver was reviewed well and that there was some hype about it, but I didn't think I would fall in love.

But I did. And immediately after finishing Shiver, I started reading Linger. And when I updated my What I'm Reading status on Goodreads, two of my librarian friends said, "Me next!"

This series is worth the mailing of ARCs to each other. Ahhhh, the romance! Here's the one reason why I love Stiefvater's writing:

"I was suddenly overwhelmed by what an incredible person this boy was, standing in front of me, and by the fact that he was mine and I was his." (p. 224 of the ARC)


"The door opened, revealing another Labrador, this one very much alive, and a twenty-something girl with a red bandanna tied around her head. She was so interesting-looking and unpretty that she actually traveled through ugly to someplace on the other side that was almost as good as pretty: huge, beaked nose, sleepy-looking dark brown eyes, and sharp cheekbones. Her black hair was pulled up in a half a-dozen interconnected braids coiled on top of her head, like a Mediterranean Princess Leia. " (p. 247 of the ARC)

Okay, boys and girls, THAT is writing. Maggie knows teenage romance. Heck, she knows adult romance. And the love and tension between Sam and Grace is pretty darn amazing.

And, oh, the adjectives. I don't know about you, but I know exactly what Dmitra, the mixer at Anarchy Recording, Inc. looks like. In fact, from that description, I can tell you that I would like the character if she suddenly came to life in my school library.

Stiefvater is writing darn good young adult literature with these two books--can't wait to see what's next!

And did I mention this is a werewolf love story? That isn't corny?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

This one is for all you Twilight fans out there! Grace lives in Minnesota and had a close encounter with wolves when she was little. Now, as a teenager, they always watch her from the woods around her house, especially one wolf with golden eyes. When a teenage boy is attacked by wolves, the locals arrange a hunt, and Grace tries to stop the massacre. But one naked boy needs help after he is shot. And that naked boy is Sam, a werewolf.

Ooooo....werewolves..... But the romance in this novel is darn well written. Grace and Sam love each other, but are trying to figure out why Grace doesn't change after she was bitten, and why Sam is possibly not going to change from being a wolf again. As they try to figure out the werewolf stuff, they fall deeper in love and try to figure out a way they can stay together.

Look for the sequel Linger this summer, although I have an advanced reader's copy my students can borrow. I'm reading it now!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn

I had to pick up this Advanced Reader's Copy at ALA Midwinter in January because of the great cover. Doesn't it look intriguing? I showed the book trailer at a presentation a few weeks ago, too. (See

Very (short for Veronica) is very everything. She's constantly multitasking--creating social networks for her friends at Columbia University, listening to/creating music, texting, and partying hard. She was smart in high school and didn't have to try, but her freshmen year in college isn't going very well. She's struggling with grades and just struggling to stay sane. She's in love with a virtual boy named El Virus and makes crappy decisions about the boys in her life. Even her best friend/college roommate isn't liking Very very much. And then Very flips out. Her friends send her to ESCAPE, Emergency Services for Computer-Addicted Persons Everywhere. Very needs it and the therapy the place provides.

To me, things were wrapped up a bit too neatly with the therapy at the end of the book, and I didn't like how her new relationship was the answer to all her problems. I never look to books for advice, but, geez, really? A girlfriend is going to fix Very's messed up life? Umm, no. I don't think so. But I'll pass this ARC along to some girls and see what they think....

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag: a Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley

I was so happy to pick up an Advanced Reading Copy of this adult novel at ALA Midwinter, and kinda sad that I just got around to finishing it! I was a fan of Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and read online that there will be several more books in the series. Flavia de Luce is a precocious eleven-year-old who is Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew all rolled together with a love of poisons. In fact, the love of poisons is my favorite part. Flavia takes full advantage of her uncle's old laboratory in her old house, and she knows everything about chemicals, plants, poisons and antidotes. She's also pretty good at solving mysteries. So when a traveling puppeteer is murdered in her own church, she naturally begins the investigation, even if the local police isn't too interested in her ideas. The plot moves along nicely and Flavia saves the day, of course.

We are the Ship: the Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson, Performed by Dion Graham

A nonfiction audiobook has to be good for me to listen to it! This young adult title won the Odyssey Honor Award this year, so I figured I'd give it a go. The book also had starred reviews all over the place and I knew it was short with great illustrations by the author. The audiobook was only two CDs with 1 bonus CD of illustrations.

I must say I was entertained. Graham's voice was deep and mesmerizing, and even when spouting off baseball facts, I was listening. The book is divided into innings instead of chapters, and I loved hearing about the first commissioner of the Negro League and how integration came about. Everything is always about money, right? There were amazing tales of ballplayers who could do wow audiences and details about the rough play in the Negro League. All in all, it's a great read and could easily be integrated into an American History class. It's not just about baseball. It's about integration, the Great Depression, World War II, and the economy. Read it! It won't take you long, and you'll be glad you did.

Friday, March 5, 2010

In the Belly of the Bloodhound: Being An Account of a Particularly Peculiar Adventure in the Life of Jacky Faber by L.A. Meyer

Read by Katherine Kellgren. And she is an awesome narrator--just sayin'!

Had to give this Odyssey Award Honor Winner a chance and I'm glad I did! I'm a huge fan of listening to audiobooks involving accents and I got an earful with this young adult title! English, Irish, Cheapside, posh, and, of course, pirate. Yay!

This is actually the 4th book in the Bloody Jack Adventure series (Bloody Jack, The Curse of the Blue Tattoo, Under the Jolly Roger), but I didn't read the books after Bloody Jack. In this book, Jacky must return to the Lawson Peabody School for Young Girls in Boston to hide because she is wanted by the British for being piracy. So, like a good girl, she resorts to lessons and being a "lady." But a class trip excursion turns into a nightmare when the girls are kidnapped by a slaver to be sold in North Africa to sultans. Jacky's pirate experience helps her and her schoolmates as they fight to survive in the belly of the ship. Of course, they escape, but a surprise ending means that Jacky's fate isn't quite so rosy as that of her classmates. And, dang it, now I have to read the next book in the series to figure out what happens!