Thursday, July 29, 2010

Invisible Boy by Cornelia Read

I was excited to see this new adult novel at my public library because I enjoyed her previous book The Crazy School. (Although after reading my mediocre review of it, I thought I had enjoyed it more!) I remembered the snarky main character though and was thrilled to have her back in this new book. Madeline is living in NYC with her husband and employment is an issue. She is working for horrible pay taking catalog calls. Her husband ends up taking a job for her old friend Astrid's new husband, racist though he is. When helping to clean an old city cemetery, Madeline finds a skull. And she can't rest. She testifies before the grand jury, and ends up being the target of a hit.

I found it embarrassing to see how much private information the ADA and police woman told Madeline. Surely they don't give out that much information to witnesses in real life, right? If so, we're screwed! Madeline involves herself into the investigation a little too much. I didn't care for how the Astrid situation resolved itself (brutally) and needed more explanation--maybe my questions will be answered in the next novel?

Because no matter the problems I had with the novel, I want to read more about Madeline. She's a great spunky character, even if she's a little too involved with recreational drugs for my taste.

A Murder for her Majesty by Beth Hilgartner

I felt like I had read this book before, and, after looking at the original date (1986), maybe I did! It's a clean, safe read, but I'm not a fan of the new cover. It's a good read for upper elementary kids. Alice is 11 and is forced out of the comfort of her estate when her father is killed. She isn't sure who to go to because she overhears men saying that the queen will be pleased of his death. In search of her father's female friend, she travels to York and accidentally meets some young boys who take her in. They sing at the cathedral and Alice's sweet voice convinces them to cut her hair and dress her as a boy. Eventually Alice's enemies find her and she must count on her new friends in the church and choir to help her bring her father's murderers to justice.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork

When I read Marcelo in the Real World, I messed up and called this book its sequel. The books look similar and probably had the same designer, but aren't related.

Pancho is an angry teenager forced to move into an orphanage because his parents are dead and his older sister was just possibly murdered. He's obsessed with finding the man who caused her death, mainly because she was a mentally challenged woman who couldn't defend herself. But Pancho is forced into an almost servant relationship with D.Q., a boy in a wheelchair with a type of cancer. The two form a rare friendship that survives love and heartache, chemotherapy, bipolar mothers, and shamans.

There were moments where I felt like I was reading a John Green novel, but then I'd be bored with some of the philosophy talk. In a recent issue of Booklist magazine, Gillian Engberg compiled a list of read-a-likes for Printz Award winners. For the 2010 winner Going Bovine, she listed this book as a read-a-like. I'm not sure why I didn't notice the similarities, but she's right! The roadtrip, the disease, the friendships--eerily similar!

My fav quote from page 330 of the Advanced Reading Copy:

"She reached up and kissed him on the lips. It was a small kiss. It lasted only two or three seconds, just long enough for him to taste the future."


The Outside of a Horse by Ginny Rorby

I was expecting a sweet little horse read, but instead feel like I should start a rescue horse stable! The reader learns about Canadian Premarin horse stables, where pregnant mares are cooped up and their urine is used to create human hormone replacement therapies. Their colts are destroyed and the filled are impregnated to join their mothers.

Add in the stats for racehorses dying and I'm glad I'm human.

And, oh, there are characters, too! Hannah's dad is back from Iraq missing part of his leg and he isn't taking it well. He drinks too much, suffers from PTSD, and ruins relationships with his second wife and Hannah. Hannah doesn't have any friends becuase of her craxy dad and finds shelter at a neighboring horse stable. There, she mucks stalls for free and learns to care for horses and train them the Parelli way. The horses save Hannah and her father, with physical therapy and learning how to let go.

The Barrio Kings by William Kowalski

This tiny book is published by Raven, an imprint of Orca, known for publishing low reading level, high interest books. They are quite a hit with my special ed. students at my high school.

Rosario, 23, works at a grocery store and is anxiously awaiting the birth of his first son. He used to be in a gang, but is clean and trying to get his G.E.D. When his old gangbanger buddy shows up seeking revenge, Rosario doesn't want to get sucked in. But sometimes you don't have a choice. Or do you?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

Dru has grown up fighting creatures of the night. Her dad hunts them down, forcing the two of them to move often. But when her father turns into a zombie, Dru must rely on the skills he taught her to survive. She finds a friend, Graves, who supports her in finding the evil in town, even though he is a little too close to being a werwulf.

When the two friends encounter Christophe, a djamphir (1/16 vampire), they depend on him to inform them of what's going on. Dru is more than she thinks, and she is determined to learn about her mother's past and what her own role in life shall be.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

I know I've heard some buzz about this YA novel, so when I saw my mom (librarian at Meridian High School) had brought it on our family vacation, I snatched it. I usually don't care for books with a plot like the Groundhog Day movie, but this one held my interest.

Samantha relives the last day of her life over and over. She gets a chance to be with the right boy to save the life of someone else and to be nice to her family. And she learns not to be a snooty little witch. Amazingly, I wanted to keep reading to see what new decisions she'd make on her last day. Samantha can be a little dense, but she figures it out.

Can't wait to read her next book!

FYI--My mom read this the next day and loved it, although she thought the first day was a little too graphically teen. Her youngest daughter is almost 35, and she still doesn't like to know that some teenagers drink alcohol, have sex and other miscellaneous things.

FYI (too)--When I left Wisconsin, my soon-to-be freshmen niece started reading this one.

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June by Robin Benway

I think I liked Audrey, Wait, so I thought this would be good chick lit. The three sisters are suffering through their parents' divorce and a move to a new school. But, all of a sudden, April sees the future, May can become invisible, and June can read minds. Supposedly this happened to the sisters once before (the plot line never developed this fully) and they try to use their powers for good. But for teenage girls, that, um, isn't always what is morally right. They spy on their mom, have fun at parties, and manipulate their friends and enemies. The book is a light chick lit read, with just enough romance and supernatural to keep things interesting.

The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie-Antoinette by Carolyn Meyer

I don't remember nice things about Marie-Antoinette before she lost her head on the guillotine, so I wondered how Meyer would portray her. In this historical fiction YA novel, Marie-Antoinette is sheltered, spoiled, and raised to act exactly as she does. She doesn't know any common folk and doesn't understand their plight. her unsatisfying marriage is an interesting tale, as well as her struggle to produce heirs to the throne. I didn't care for how the last section was written from Marie Antoinette's daughter--her voice was undistinctable from her mother's, so what was the point? I would like to see a whole book written from the daughter's point of view. She was royal blood without a country for most of her life and wandered all over Europe--now that's a story!

But Carolyn Meyer never disappoints me. I grew up reading Victoria Holt in junior high, so I've always been a sucker for the French or English court!

Matched by Ally Condle

To be Published Nov. 2010

There's been quite the fuss over this YA novel on book discussion lists so I was anxious to read it. After the first few chapters, I thought, "Yes! This is as good as The Hunger Games!" But then the plot started to drag for me. It's a Romeo-and-Juliet romance set in a futuristic society. Cassia is matched with her spouse and everything is statistically approved by the government. But what happens if you fall in love with someone else? or if you find a poem that isn't one of the 100 Poems approved by the Society? Does Cassia rebel? Fight for true love? or follow the law?

And, yes, there is a sequel!

Click: One Novel Ten Authors

The proceeds from this novel go to Amnesty International, and that theme does run a bit through the chapters. Each chapter is written by a different author, and some of them are big names like David Almond, Nick Hornby, Gregory Maguire, and others. The overall theme is that a photojournalist dies and leaves some gifts to his grandchildren. Maggie receives a box of shells and Jason receives a stack of autographed photographs. Interesting enough, eh? But then each chapter gives the reader a little bit more information.

I'm not sure why this collection was published YA because I think it could be a hit with adults. Or really, really introspective teens. I found the intertwining of the stories fascinating and felt that Maggie and Jason were really fleshed out. And, whoa, what a twist about Grandpa at the end! I didn't see that coming! Gregory Maguire futuristic chapter was my least favorite, probably because it was such a stretch from the rest of the book. But I'll forgive him since he's awesome.

Need by Carrie Jones

From the cover, I was expecting another vampire novel for some reason....and now I'm thinking why? Duhh....the gold dust means pixies! Yay! In the same vein as Shiver and Twilight, Need revolves around a teenage girl who falls in love with the bad boy who isn't quite what he seems. But Zara isn't what she seems either. There's a reason why her mother hasn't been back to her Maine hometown. Someone wants her. Or something.

I love the quote on the back jacket of the book from Justine magazine: "If you grabbed Stephen King and Stephanie Meyer and asked them to co-author a book, they would come up with Need."

Don't miss the sequel, Captivate.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (The Infernal Devices Book One)

To Be Published August 2010. I love reading a prequel that is better than the original series! The Mortal Instruments series started with City of Bones, continued with City of Ashes and City of Glass, and a fourth book, City of Fallen Angels, will be published in March 2011. The Infernal Devices books will be a trilogy (or more, I guess, if they sell well) also--yay!

Tessa, a sixteen-year-old orphan, travels solo across the Atlantic to Victorian England to join her brother in London. But her brother doesn't meet her at the port--the Dark Sisters do. The Sisters keep Tessa captive while teaching her to use her "talent." Tessa can change into anyone else, dead or alive, as long as she holds something of that person. Spooky, huh? Eventually Tessa is rescued by the Shadowhunters (recognizable from the Mortal Instruments series) and she is thrust into a fight between the Shadowhunters and the Magister of the Downworlders.

I loved this book more than any in her other series and anxiously await the second title. She has a way of combining werewolves, vampires, humans and automatons together. Love that Clare conquered steampunk!

The Fallen: The Fallen and Leviathan by Thomas F. Sniegoski

Sexy cover, eh? These two-in-one books were originally published back in 2003, but with the popularity of fallen angels lately, I imagine this YA book will sell well.

Aaron starts to have scary things happen to him when he turns 18. He can understand his dog perfectly, as well as the cute Brazilian girl at school when she speaks Portuguese. Strange homeless men in the park talk to him about nephilim and Aaron is forced to confide in his former psychologist. But then people close to him end up dead and other fallen angels are hunting him. Aaron might be the one to fulfill the prophecy--he could save the souls of all fallen angels and return them to heaven. Whoa--that's deep, right?

In The Fallen, Aaron plays dumb to the angel thing a little too long and in Leviathan, the fight scenes take forever. But, all in all, the action is fast, the teenager (slash angel) saves the day and the story continues in The Fallen 2.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Going Bovine by Libba Bray, read by Erik Davies

I was listening to this unabridged audiobook on my drive to the airport for ALA Annual. I knew I was going to hear Libba Bray's acceptance speech for this book, and it was quite the treat! Do I think this is the best book ever? No way. But I think the Printz committee did a great job picking a winner. This book is different and showing where YA literature is going in the future. It's complex, yet simple. I laughed and got a little teary at the end. I wanted to befriend Cameron. And adopt him. Or date an older version of him. And that's what you call good characterization, my friends!

Cameron gets the shock of his life when he finds out he has mad cow disease. His brain does some funny things and he doesn't have much time to live. So he goes on the road trip of his life to find a possible cure. He finds love, a talking garden gnome, a dwarf who becomes his best friend, and love. They travel to New Orleans during Mardi Gras (whoo-woo!) and even make to Disney World.

Bray made quite the departure from her Great and Terrible Beauty novels, but, wow, she made something unique. And, after hearing her speak, I know. Where the strangeness comes from. And the awesomeness. :)

The Devouring by Simon Holt

Some kids just love horror books and I'll have to put this one in my library just for them. Reggie starts living a nightmare when her younger brother is possessed with some thing. She's not sure what, exactly, but she gets some clues from an old bookseller and a book she found that described The Devouring. They are evil beings that devour your soul. Ooooooo....insert creepy music. But the author builds some pretty scary moments and throws some gore in there, too. It's not my type of book and I think the cover should be less girly and more gory, but it fills a niche for kids who are finished with Stine, Pike, and Shan, but not yet ready for Stephen King.

Monday, July 5, 2010

13 to Life by Shannon Delaney

I'm blogging from my phone due to the holiday. I've been looking forward to reading this novel because an earlier version of it won a contest at as a novel written on a cell phone. So it's only fitting that I'm writing my blog on my Droid, right?

Jessica has some issues because her mother died in a car accident and her father isn't quite sure what to do with a teenage girl. She gets good grades, works on the family horse farm, and surrounds herself with girlfriends and newspaper buddies. But then she is asked by the office to show Pietr around, a transfer student from a neighboring town. His Russian accent and rugged good looks attract lots of attention, and Jessica doesn't want any part of it. But she can't help it. The bad boy is attractive. And has secrets that Jessica will find out.

I could have done without the plotline of Jessica's need to sacrifice herself (with Sarah) because I didn't think it was needed or supported the main plot sequence with Jessica and Pietr. Their chemistry and Jessica's snarkiness made the book and will make the sequel, too. It should be noted that I read an ARC that had many mistakes, but I'm assuming those will be corrected in the paperback original that is supposed to be out in July. Oh, and guess what? This is a werewolf title!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Zombie Queen of Newbury High by Amanda Ashby

I hate when authors don't create distinct characters. I spent half of the first fifty pages trying to figure out the difference between Mia and Candice. When I finally did, I didn't really care for either of them. Mia finally has a popular (but stupid) guy dating her and she is going to prom with him. But now the most popular girl in school is after her date, so she has do do something! The two friends chant a love spell that ends up creating zombies of the entire senior class. Of course, the zombie effects move in stages and there just happens to be a Paranormal Containment Officer in her class. He's cute, of course. The three kids save the day and no one gets hurt. Ugh. Why must most zombie novels be so mediocre?

Island Sting by Bonnie J. Doerr

Ugh. Nothing like a preachy environmental cheesy book for 8 year olds to tick this reviewer off in an airport! I mean, really, what kid would pick this up for fun? I can see it being assigned reading in an Environmental Science class in junior high, but, oh, it's not fun. What kid says "holy ship!"? Add in the childish illustrations and you have a book most students wouldn't check out. The deer pictures are childish and sappy. The bullet holes on the cover hint at adventure, but unless you consider creating a green ecology club adventure, you'll be disappointed.

Rat Life by Tedd Arnold

Humph. Not sure what to think about this Edgar-Award-winning novel. Too many exclamation marks for a teen boy narrator. A few cheesy lines, but some underclassmen boys could find this little read interesting.

Todd befriends Rat, a Vietnam veteran at age 17, and the two start a strange friendship. Rat's home-life stinks and when a body is found in the river, Todd wonders if war veterans really can snap. The Chemanga River flood of 1972 adds an adventurous climax to the teen mystery.

Dooley Takes the Fall by Norah McClintock

I was a little reminded of a dark Kevin Brooks mystery while reading this YA novel. Dooley is 17 and trying to turn his life around, but he keeps being accused of things. He lives with his ex-cop uncle, tried to stay away from drugs and alcohol, and tries to keep a quiet profile at school. But then he sees a teenage boy take a dive off the bridge. Was it murder? An accident? Suicide? Beth, the dead kid's sister, is gorgeous and Dooley tries to help her figure out what happened. But since the police are on Dooley's case because of his record, Dooley has to take the mystery solving into his own hands.

Death by Latte by Linda Gerber

Aphra is back and is reunited with her mom after four long years. In the original book, Aphra learns her mom is ex-CIA, and in this volume, Aphra learns that her mom is still mixed up in intrigue. Seth is back in all his hotness, but love can't save them from the crooked CIA agents this time. Things end peacefully, of course, but, hey, read volume 3 to find out what happens when Aphra has to move to France and change her name.

Walk of the Spirits by Richie Tankersley Cusick

I think I'm too old for this book, because it just seemed cheesy. Although the characters are teenagers, the action seems like it's for 4th graders. In fact, with younger characters, I think this could be a hit for tweens. I'm amazed that it's published under the Speak imprint, which is usually more for teenagers.

Miranda Barnes loses everything in a hurricane in Florida, so she and her mother have to move back to St. Yvette, Louisiana, her mother's hometown. Miranda is told she can't speak to her crazy grandfather, but she does on the day he dies. He "sees" ghosts and he tells her that she has the gift, too. And, of course, she does. Spirits talk to her, and her new friends believe her. Torn between the handsome cousins Etienne and Gage (cheezy romance scenes), Miranda must rely on her new friends to help her solve a Confederate mystery.