Friday, December 31, 2010

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

I've been anxious to read this since there has been fussing on yalsa-bk, but I almost quit without finishing. I re-read A Northern Light a few weeks ago, so I thought I'd enjoy another historical mystery. But the main character, Andi, is just plain annoying. I don't like her. She's swimming in the pain of the death of her younger brother, but she's such a self-destroyer that I don't care to read about her. I kept waiting for the French Revolution stuff to come into the story and it almost came too late. The musician tale of Malherbeau and the tale of Alex is great, but I hate the idea that a man, Virgil, has to be Andi's savior and save her from suicide. Next novel, I hope Donnelly leaves the modern stuff out of her story, and just sticks to historical fiction.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney

Guest Blog (from my seven-year-old daughter Addie): I like the part when Greg tries to get on PEACHY BREEZE. Greg is the main character. In the story Greg has to get headgear. Greg takes a picture of someone's elbow but the teacher thinks it's a butt. Greg has brothers named Rodrick and Manny. I hope you like this book.

Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell

I've always been a big fan of Dairy Queen and The Off Season, so I was excited to see this Advance Reader's Copy show up on my doorstep from Simon & Schuster. The cover is cool and it seemed to be about a farm girl, so I anxiously cracked it open last night.

Janie Gorman is a farm girl--cool when when she was nine and convinced her parents to move to a farm, but embarrassing now that she's a freshman in high school and getting on the bus with goat poop on her shoe. She's stuck in that freshman place of wondering if she should try to blend in with everyone or just stick with being who she is. She buys vintage clothes and sews cowboy boots on her skirts, but then she also just wants someone to eat lunch with. When a senior boy named Monster shows her some attention and wants to teach her the bass guitar, she isn't sure what to do. But the confidence she gains is just enough to help her realize that who she is is just right. She's a bit different, with a blogging mom who makes goat cheese, but that's okay.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

The YA Lit world buzzed earlier this year about this book, but I was too busy reading PPYA books to give it a glance. I picked up an ARC at ALA Midwinter or Annual (can't remember which) and I just not got around to reading it. I see why the fuss. The setting is bleak--a futuristic world where kids dismantle oil tankers to survive in a dismal, polluted world. Nailer doesn't want to be like his violent, feared father, and latches onto a rich girl he finds shipwrecked on his beach. Nita is a beacon of light in his world and perhaps he can change his own world by helping her get rescued. It's a dog-eat-dog world though, and Nailer has to determine who is family--his horrible father? His crew? or his new rich friend?

My thoughts--great beginning and great ending, though the middle dragged a bit for me. But good for readers who liked Airborn and the Mortal Engines series.

Choker by Elizabeth Woods

To be published January 2011.

Cara is the quiet bullied girl at school, even though she's a thin girl on the track team. She's ecstatic when her childhood best friend appears in her room. Zoe can't go home and wants to hideout in Cara's room and Cara is thrilled to have some company.

But then the snotty neighbor girl drowns in the pool. Another witch disappears. The cops are investigating Ethan, the boy of Cara's dreams, and even Cara is questioned. I guessed the murderer after the first murder--can you? :)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Soul Enchilada by David Macinnis Gill

I guess it was my day for reading about demons? At least this one was better than the first! Bug Smoot is a girl living in El Paso who is in trouble. She can't pay her rent and a demon is trying repossess her car. And her. All because her grandfather sold his soul for a Cadillac and made her cosign when she was 13 and didn't know any better. And so the gambles and games begin. I'd like to read a book with Bug Smoot and no demons--I think she's be great in a mystery novel.

Personal Demons by Lisa Descrochers

You can't take 18 years of church, Bible school and church camp out of a girl, so books like this make me nervous. It's not it's scary--but it makes me uncomfortable. Frannie has magical powers of sway (like Moses AND Hitler--really? you gotta make THAT connection?) and the demons of hell and angels of heaven want her. Both want to mark her for their home, but she isn't giving in easily. Both send hot men in disguise to help persuade her. She, of course, falls in love with one of them and "sways" him to her side. Cheesy romance and I didn't like all the hell/demon details.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Jack: Secret Histories by F. Paul Wilson

As I was reading the first page of this one, I thought, "Wait...didn't I just read something with a character named Weezy?" I did just read a short story by the author and he returned to the setting for this book. Unfortunately, what I really liked about the short story--the mysterious Pineys--weren't really in the full-length book. Jack, the main character, was, but I really liked the idea of the vigilante justice of the backwoods inbreeds. :)

The mysterious Lodge in the New Jersey town is intertwined with murders of its members and Jack and his best friends Weezy and Eddie discover a rotten corpse. Lodge members start dying of heart attacks and Jack is determined to solve the mystery, even if everyone compares him to a Hardy boy. I was surprised by the setting of 1983 and the abundance of cultural mentions--playing ET on the Atari, wearing Converse, listening to The Police. Would kids now get it or just be lost? I found myself looking for the Pineys, so I was disappointed in Jack solving the mystery.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Fear: 13 Stories of Suspense and Horror, Edited by R.L. Stine

I wasn't too impressed with the first two stories, but the third one, "Suckers" by Suzanne Weyn, had me chuckling out loud--it was great! But, the rest were just ehhhh. I know the R.L. Stine audience is a bit younger than high school, but I just don't think Fear is appropriate for these stories. Meg Cabot's story was a good superhero romance story, but it wasn't scary. "Piney Power" by F. Paul Wilson created a cool setting and interesting characters. "Jeepers Peepers" by Ryan Brown had me re-reading sections to see if I missed something--it was the creepiest.

Generation Dead by Daniel Waters

Sorry, folks, but I'm not sure where the Kirkus Review-er gets off saying that "Stephanie Meyer meets John Green in debut author Waters's wry, original supernatural romance..." I sure didn't read any John Green-like stuff in this book! But I do see the Stephanie Meyer. I'm not sure about the "original" either. I've read lots of zombie books this year for PPYA and I didn't see much new here. I do wonder about the cover though--the main characters aren't zombie cheerleaders. In fact, there aren't any zombie cheerleaders, but there is a zombie who wears a short plaid skirt. Stick to the plot, publishers, when you're choosing a cover, please!

Phoebe falls in love with a zombie boy, and, of course, this is frowned upon by the masses. She and her best friends join a political support group for the biotic different and try to support the zombies. The zombies in this world differ in abilities, and tons of zombies are coming to Oakvale High, because it is supportive of the undead. But not all the students like having the undead in their walls, and, of course, there is a Dave Karofsky-Glee character who wants to see all undead dead. Again.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz

This is another YA vampire tale that I thought I had read, but I hadn't! It was actually a pretty good vampire romance/mystery, so I can see why the series is popular with teen girls. The Blue Bloods, NYC's elite society are descendants of the the first American settlers and are actually vampires. Schuyler Van Alen has her own powerful history and she is thrust into a mystery just as she starts receiving her powers. Someone is killing Blue Bloods, even if no one will admit her. Her close friend Oliver, a Red Blood who is assigned to protect her, must help Schuyler solve the mystery, which, of course, is continued in Masquerade, the second book in the series.

The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks

I know this book is popular. Heck, it has "New York Times Bestseller" written on the cover. But I don't have to like it, right? It provides all the information you'd ever need about surviving with zombies. How they function, how to kill them, what weapons to use, how to prepare for a possible attack. There's even some journal pages in the back to include your own details of a possible zombie attack. I know exactly what students would eat this book up, but I'm not one of its fans. :)

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Read by Kirby Heyborne

I punished myself by listening to this book again. I *know* I either listened to it or read it before, but I didn't blog about it or add it to goodreads. And so I must listen again and I *hate* re-reading books. I know some people re-read books all the time, but not me. I read enough books with similar plotlines and characters to think I'm re-reading something all the time.

Marcus is Mikey, a smart kid who hacks to beat the system. San Francisco is under the control of the Department of Homeland Security after the Bay Bridge is blown up by terrorists, and Marcus is arrested because he's in the vicinity. Using his xbox, he develops a "professional learning network" of kids/adults who want to beat the system and believe in freedom, not homeland security. It's a bash on what our government did after Sept. 11, but it's well written. I was bored during the techie parts and skipped past a few. But I think this book has kinda become a classic about "the man" and what can happen when government gets too much power.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Malice by Chris Wooding

Like The Invention of Hugo Cabret, this YA novel has some chapters told in graphic novel format. The plot is driven by urban myth. Similar to the Candyman legend that I heard growing up, this world has Tall Jack. Say a phrase six times and burn some things in a bowl, and he'll "get you." And he does. Kids in England are disappearing, but no one knows where or why. Adults are clueless and some kids come reappear with no memory. Seth and Kady are sucked into the world of the Malice comic book, but feel the urge to save the day. I'm sure that happens in Havoc, the sequel. I thought this book was interesting and a quick read--better for tweens than teens.

Glory by Devin O'Branagan

This is a first! This YA novel is self-published and I actually like it! As a book blogger, I am contacted often by authors who self-publish and want their books reviewed. Honestly, I rarely read them because the writing is so bad I can't finish the book. But O'Branagan's tale about Glory and her other "superhero" protectors was interesting. The book is little and short, but she manages to pack a lot of details in. The book is definitely plot driven, but it works.

A plague has descended on the world and Glory's dad dies. Her mom, a scientist, has developed a vaccine and a cure, but "they" don't want it out there--the population needs to decrease by a few billion first. With the help of a vampire, a dog, an angel, and a witch, Glory must find her missing mother and get the cure out to the rest of the world. The book has a sequel, so the problems aren't solved in this first book, but the cliffhanger makes you want to read more.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

It was a real pleasure to read a book that didn't make me roll my eyes tonight! Tamsin comes from a family of witches, but she has no talent. So instead of learning the tricks of her coven, she hides in New York City at a boarding school, trying to get away from her failure. But, she learns that she has a power that is needed to save her family and its past failures. She must save her sister (that she dislikes, but still loves) and even her powerful grandmother needs her help.

This isn't cheesy or too snarky--just a good witch story that has some romance and mystery.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hell Phone by William Sleator

Well, I just wasted an hour of time reading this horrible book--thanks, PPYA! :) Seriously, this one was just what you expect from the title and cover. Wow.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The School for Dangerous Girls by Eliot Schrefer

Reading this, I was reminded of one of my favorite books as a kid, where some teens are thrown into the woods on an adventure, but really are left to die by their parents. Anyone know the name of that one?

Angela has always been a troublemaker, but she is still shocked when her parents decide to send her away to a boarding school that is run like a prison. It's evil there--horrible psychologists, bullying, and hazing. The girls know that other girls are dying, and decide they must take over the school. Their parents are believing them, so they must get video evidence of the destruction around them.

The book is very anti-adult and pro-bad girl with good intentions--just the type of book I was reading when I was 12 or 13. :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Top Reads of 2010

For the first time, I decided to try to narrow my top reads of 2010 down to 10 titles. I couldn't make it! So here are my Top 11 Reads of 2010.

The Last Apprentice--Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney, performed by Christopher Evan Welch. The audio version rocked my world and led to me listening to the rest of the series.

Refresh, Refresh, a graphic novel by Danica Novgorodoff, adapted from the screenplay by James Ponsoldt, based on the short story by Benjamin Percy. You all know that a five star graphic novel from me is going to be an emotional whopper.

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, The Infernal Devices Book One. I reviewed Clare's first series for VOYA and knew it was popular, but wasn't too thrilled with the writing. She impressed me with the first title in the prequel series though.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. I know, I know, I rave about John Green's books. And I will cherish my autographed copy (by both authors) forever! But rarely do co-written books end up being made of awesome like this one.

Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson, Read by Dion Graham. Lovely, lovely, sweet, little audiobook. Recommended for younger readers, but can easily be adored by readers of all ages.

New York: the Novel by Edward Rutherford, Read by Mark Bramhall. 30 CDs of epic New York history/soap opera.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. Better than The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. Read it and see which book you like better!

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. I don't usually like sequels. But ohhhh, the romance!

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell. 1940's romance/mystery AND National Book Award winner!

Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo and Harry Bliss, Read by Barbara Rosenblat. Don't laugh. This audiobook/children's book rocks! And won the Odyssey Award.

The Good Soldiers by David Finkel. 2010 Alex Award winner and one of THE best war nonfiction I've ever read.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle

I was hoping this would be a good historical mystery (like A Northern Light) and I wasn't disappointed. Most of the story is told as a tale to a young fledgling reporter interviewing an old man. The old man is Ruben Hart, and he tells the story of his best friend Jeddy. The two of them were involved with rum-running during the Prohibition. With the smuggling comes gangsters, murder, and paying off law enforcement, and the two boys (and the rest of the townspeople) are soon over their heads. The Black Duck is the name of the mysterious souped-up boat that the Coast Guard can't catch. Until one night when the Coast Guard opens fire on the boat, killing three and wounding one.

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

I zipped through this little novel about a young lady living in a polygamist cult. She's the oldest of tons of kids from three moms and one dad. But Kyra has dreams. She reads "illegal" books from the bookmobile and secretly meets a young man her age from the Chosen Ones. Then the Prophet sees in a vision that she is supposed to marry her Uncle Hyrum. Who is sixty. And her dad's brother. Ewwww.

And so Kyra thinks about running. But the God Squad beats people who resist and will do anything to stop people from escaping. They've killed before, especially women and babies, so if she does manage to escape, they may hunt her down. Great suspense!

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd with Steve Whitaker and Siobhan Dodds

Well, this graphic novel award wins the award for taking the longest to read. It took DAYS and lots of squinting. I absolutely hated the font--all capital letters and small and squished together, so I had to hold the book close to my face. I got a headache from concentrating so hard. Yuck. Basically, this is the story of a man gone bad and then plotting to take out all those who wronged him. I couldn't help thinking of an evil Batman. The city was Gotham-like--dark and evil and a futuristic society where the government controlled everything and the common people didn't care or think.

All in all, I didn't mind the plot. But I didn't like the artwork or font. The watercolors were garish and the words were just too darn hard to read. I have perfect vision and don't like to be reminded of what my eyes will be like in 10-20 years!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks by Max Brooks

This quick graphic novel read was pretty gross. Max Brooks, the popular zombie writer, has recorded instances of zombie occurrences throughout time. For example, the Japanese military always aims for the head--just in case the enemy is the undead.

I guess if you're a Max Brooks lover, you'll love this book, but I wasn't impressed. But I was thankful it wasn't in color!

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld, Read by Alan Cumming

I enjoyed the first book in this series, Leviathan, so I was looking forward to listening to the sequel. The war is still going on between the Darwinists and the Clankers, and Alek and Deryn are still together. Alek is heir to the Austrian throne, and trying to stay alive so he can stop the war when he gets a little older. Deryn is still a girl posing as a boy on the warship Leviathan. The two friends jump ship in Istanbul and must survive in a war-torn city with the help of some revolutionaries.

This series is for tweens, but I really enjoyed Deryn's character and the struggle between the Clankers and the Darwinists. I miss seeing the actual print version of the book, especially if it's as beautiful as Leviathan.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly, Read by Hope Davis

I know I read this years ago, but I didn't blog about it, although I gave it five stars on LibraryThing. This book was nominated for the mystery category for Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, so I decided to listen to it to remind me of its greatness. I've read a lot of YA books in the past ten years and now my ratings have changed--this is a 4 star now. Why? I thought the plot was slow in the middle. The whole action takes place in one night when Mattie is given letters to burn from a woman who dies in a boating accident. While working at the hotel, she tries to find a time to read them, and finally does at night. But the majority of the story is told in flashbacks, and I found myself saying, "Just get back to the dead girl, why don't you!?" However, the setting of the Adirondacks in 1906 is awesome, and something not seen much in YA literature. The Printz committee awarded this as an honor book in 2004. It's a good, quiet mystery that I can easily recommend to my wanna-be female writers.

The Adventures of Jack Lime by James Leck

What a cute refreshing read! Jack Lime is a private investigator at his high school and this little book has three of his tales. While he is in high school, I would recommend this more for junior high kids--it seems a bit young. Jack gets beat up a lot for snooping. He calls out the prom king for cheating on his girlfriend, tries to figure out who stole a bike and tells his doctor how he got sucked into the crime solving realm in the first place. Most interestingly, Jack suffers from narcolepsy and falls asleep during the worst possible times, like when he's thrown in a river.

Short stories aren't the most popular collections in my library, but lots of kids come in asking for mysteries. Wish this were a full-blown novel because I loved Jack Lime. I checked out the author's website and found another reason why he's cool: "Currently, James lives in Kuwait with his wife and two children where he teaches high school English. He still enjoys sleeping and eating but has moved beyond pooping his pants." Oh, yes, James Leck, you're cool!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

Cheesy. I wouldn't have finished this one unless I had to for PPYA. With quotes like "I was probably the only person who had ever loved him so much. And that made me the only person who could save him" and the typical preacher's daughter falling in love with a werewolf, there was nothing new in this young adult novel. I did like the cover, if that counts for something, although I'm not sure what the significance of the legs is.

Grace Divine grows up in the shadow of her perfect older brother Jude and her perfect preacher father and her perfect preacher's wife mother. But the family has its secrets and they never talk about them. Jude's best friend Daniel had troubles and moved in with their family, but suddenly ran away, only to come back this school year. Jude can't forgive him, but Grace is still in love with the mysterious boy. Well, duh, it's because he's a werewolf and the two of them are bound to love each other--gag. Harsh, I know, but if I want to read a werewolf love story, I'll take Shiver and Linger any day.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Exorsistah by Claudia Mair Burney

Emme Vaughn is a homeless seventeen-year-old who has been in and out of foster care for years. Her mom is certified insane in an asylum and Emme has always had her own problems. She sees demons and devils. They've often tried to hurt her, but she can repel them by praying and asking God for help. At a Walgreen's, she discovers another man who can sense evil, and the he convinces her to join the cause of exorcising evil. Emme's childhood friend is possessed and needs her help to get rid of the demon inside her.

The Pro's: It's rare to find debate about Catholicism, Pentecostal Christian, and African religion in a young adult book. Scripture was flying everywhere in this book, but I didn't feel like the author was pushing something at me. The entire concept of exorcism and religion was well done. I even checked the publisher to see if this was a Christian publisher, but it wasn't.

The Con's: Oh, Emme's dialect about killed me. I didn't want to read another "yo" or paragraph about her talking back to someone. I know she just came off the streets, but her mother raised her right. Her constant admiration of Francis, the hottie who wants to be a priest, was overdone, too. I assume the sequel (The Exorsistah: X Returns) will reveal more details about whether Francis chooses Emme or the Catholic Church.