Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior by Chris Bradford

When I was in junior high, I went through a phase where I read any fiction book I could find that was set in China or Japan--especially Laurence Yep books. So I'm always willing to pick up another young adult or juvenile title like this one.

Jack Fletcher is a sailor like his father, and they are attempting to be the first English sailors to reach the Japans. They make it, but Jack is the only one who survives. He's adopted into a samurai's family and is taught the ancient art of being in that historic caste. He is foiled by the samurai's other son, of course, and there is a beautiful young female samurai warrior who catches his eye. Jack grows up quickly and I couldn't help but think of Karate Kid as I was reading! It's all there--bonzai, philosophy, focusing on simple moves, and the complicated kick that takes out the bad guy in the end. :)

Recommended for those who like action, historical fiction or books that take place in other lands.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Read by Tara Sands

This was a difficult audiobook to listen to because of how the main character dealt with her newborn child. I actually had to stop listening a few times because it was so painful.

Victoria has been in and out of foster and group homes and is finally emancipated at age 18. She's homeless, but finds solace with a flower shop owner on the weekends. Victoria knows the language of flowers and has a gift of flower arranging.  One of her foster moms taught her what flowers mean and Victoria truly believes that her flowers can make people "feel" something.  While Victoria can help others, she has a very difficult time helping herself. She doesn't know how to love others and this is a HUGE problem when she becomes pregnant. Honestly, I don't want to give away the plot, but the book takes a pretty big serious turn.  This isn't a fluffy flower book, which is what I thought I was getting into....

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

I see what all the fuss is about for this Morris contender.  Sure, it's another YA fantasy, but it's unique, exciting, and a darn good book for a first-time author.

Elisa is a princess who is married off to a stranger on her sixteenth birthday. She's fat, useless, but smart. When she's kidnapped be strange desert people, she must learn how to survive and to trust her kidnappers. They need her help because she is a bearer of the godstone.  In her naval.  (I have to admit that this is the part that makes me giggle--especially the spinning godstones around her belly at the end...) Elisa fulfills the prophecy and becomes a great leader, although she suffers along the way.

Recommended for all fantasy readers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

As soon as YALSA announced the Morris Award finalists, I rushed to my bookshelves to check out the ones I hadn't read. And, um, that's all of them! I've been busy reading PPYA books all year and am behind in my current reading. So this month I'm focusing on Morris finalists and possible Printz contenders.

I don't believe this good book will win the Morris Award.  First of all, it's the kind of book that you hug to your chest and say, "This is such a good book." It's not different or unique though, although the topic is.  I was a history minor in college and I never knew about the Lithuanians who were deported during WWII and sent to Siberia.  Twelve years of living horribly? Completely lost to friends and family back home? Told to keep silent about their plight? Horrible!

Lina is a typical upper class Lithuanian girl when her family is taken from their house, shoved into a cattle car and driven for months across Russia. She starves, steals, and mostly tries to survive with as much of her family as she can. In the meantime, she finds love and learns how to live in the most desperate of times.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Inside Out by Maria Snyder

The world is Inside and no one knows what's Outside. Is it Earth? Sky? It has to be something better, right? Trella hopes so. She's a scrub, forced to live to work in the ducts to clean the Inside for the Uppers. The Uppers live a better life than the Scrubs, don't they? (I kept thinking of Dr. Seuss's The Sneetches as I read this book) (And some other book that I couldn't remember the name of--was it Incarcenon?)

I enjoyed this read--it's dystopian and other worldly, yet intriguing. Trella/Sadie/Ella is resourceful and knows her way around a tool belt.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Super Human by Michael Carroll

Can you tell I'm a reading fool trying to get through the books on the PPYA lists before ALA Midwinter in January? I'm anxious to read books that AREN'T on the PPYA list--mainly the Morris award short list and some Printz contender titles that are being thrown around on blogs lately.

I've been putting this book off because of the cover--it looks like some slasher R.L. Stine novel, doesn't it? But I was actually impressed.  It's like an action videogame and I didn't get bored at all.  A horrible plague of something like the flu is affecting all the adults in the world and some kids have to save it. Some of the kids are super-human--one has telekinesis, one is super-strong, one can set things on fire, and one is just a normal kid thug. They must stop the super-villains who are trying to awaken the Fifth King, who is an ancient god/king of Assyria. The kids, of course, save the world. Give this to kids (middle grades to high school) who like action, adventure, comics, hero stories or gaming.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bossypants by Tina Fey

This memoir confirmed that I love Tina Fey and made me add 30 Rock to my netflix queue. I laughed aloud a lot while listening to this audiobook and it actually brought back some feminist thoughts for me.  I always considered myself one in college--taking feminism courses, always arguing with men in my history classes, etc., but somehow I've gotten off that boat lately.  Tina Fey reminded me of a lot of ideas that I need to remember. She's a powerful leader who has had to succeed in the world of comedy.  And I'm wondering....did she write her memoir at 40 because she knows she's going to go crazy soon? lol (Read it!) Also, I totally agree with Tina about cruises....

Americus by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill

Okay, folks, I'm sick of library-related books receiving too much press.  Yes, I know librarians read the reviews, buy a lot of books, and blog a lot. But this graphic novel wasn't anything special, yet it received rave reviews and was a Junior Library Guild choice.  Why? Because it's about book banning at a public library. I felt like I was reading a librarian's graphic novel version of an after school special about censorship.  So, um, I didn't like it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Beowulf by Gareth Hinds

I'm a huge fan of the old Beowulf tale--I used to teach it in World Lit years ago. So if this graphic novel gets the tale out to more kids, that's great! The translation of the tale would still be a difficult read for reluctant readers, but there are pages of fight scenes with no words at all.  Those violent scenes weren't my cup of tea, but artwork was very impressive.

Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst

I was looking forward to reading this shiny YA book--the cover is great! Although I think they added her short shorts--the skin color of her legs doesn't match the rest of her body!

Lily wants to go to Princeton and visits the campus with her alum grandpa and her mentally ill mother.  Once there, she finds that she can choose to complete a legacy test--passing it means that she gets into Princeton.  And then the fantasy comes in!  Turns out that there is a parallel Princeton through the gate and Lily is someone who can enter it.  I loved the idea of the gargoyles being able to come to life and the idea that she is part-other-worldly creature (read to find out what kind).  I think this is a fresh addition to fantasy chick lit.

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen, Read by Karen White

Years ago, I read this author's Garden Spells and Sugar Queen and knew I wanted to listen to her latest. Her books are usually whimsical chick lit, and that is just what I was in the mood for. I was a tad bit disappointed because this adult novel fell into the kinda cheesy chick lit category.  The dialogue between the characters made me roll my eyes when they were confessing their love for each other.  I also didn't understand why Willa being a practical joker in high school was such a big deal--it didn't add anything to the plot or character development.  Other than those two things, I enjoyed the story.

Willa and Paxton are thrown together because their grandmothers were founding members of a society club formed in the 1930's.  Now it's the 75th anniversary of the club and Paxton is trying to plan the perfect gala. But a dead body is found buried in the yard of the manor and this causes trouble.  A mystery that has been kept silent between the grandmothers comes to light--drawing Paxton and Willa together.  Of course, they both fall in love (enter the cheesiness), although the idea that Paxton loves a man she thinks is gay, but really isn't, was a little entertaining.  Haven't read that in a novel before!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell their Stories, edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones

It's always nice to know that you're not alone when you're being bullied. Everyone has his or her own story to tell--from both sides of the bullying problem.  In this collection of memoirs, poetry, and one comic, famous authors of teen books tell their own stories.  The introduction is by Ellen Hopkins (who came to PCHS--woot!) and cool authors like Kiernan Scott, R.L. Stine, Lisa Yee, Cecil Castellucci, Carrie Ryan, Lara Zeises, Alyson Noel, Lauren Kate, Megan McCafferty, and even children's book author Mo Willems! The list of authors is absolutely amazing--everyone has a story to tell about growing up bullied.

On the negative side, after reading about a quarter of the book, the stories all started to run together with a common theme.  Don't worry, things will get better. Yes, this makes you stronger, but it still sucks. There is comfort in numbers...and sometimes slightly in revenge. I'm just not sure if this will checked out much in my library, although I'll make sure my counselors know I have it.  I could see a teacher using selected sections in their class, too, but I'm just not sure if it's going to be a popular read. Gee, does carrying this library book make you a target for bullying? ;)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Demon King: A Seven Realms Novel by Cinda Williams Chima

I know The Warrior Heir by this author was popular in my library a few years ago, but I only gave it 3 stars on Goodreads.  So I was pleasantly surprised when this book served as a good fantasy romp for me.  I'm always a fan of medieval-ish British-like fantasy worlds and this book seemed like a Dickensian Aladdin Robin Hood to me.

Told in alternating chapters, the book focuses on Han Alister, a street rat who has survived as a street gang leader for most of his short life.  He's rough, but loves his mam and sister and tries to escape that life to become a trader.  He's spent his summers with the clan people in the woods who have taught him much about healing and living a good life.

Raisa is a princess who has grown up sheltered. She's close to her marrying age, but she knows there is more to her life than acting fancy and smiling a lot.  She wants to get out into the city (think Princess Jasmine of Aladdin) and needs the help of a few good men. Fortunately, she's pretty, smart, rich, and a princess, so she has plenty willing to help. The only problem is that she isn't sure who to trust.  Even her mother the queen may not be trustworthy.

The two separate stories are thrilling and DO NOT merge by the end of the book! Ugh! But it makes me itching to read the sequel, which, I guess, is the whole point.  Raisa and Han are fated to meet eventually!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr, Read by the Author

This little YA novel packs a whopper. Deanna is caught in the backseat of her boyfriend's car by her dad.  Only problem is that she's 13 and in 8th grade and her boyfriend is 17 and a loser--obviously, since he's going after children. That one event haunts her--years later and she's still considered the school slut, even though she only had sex with that one boyfriend.  No one has wanted her since, not even her dad as a daughter.  Her family life stinks and her friends aren't the most faithful after she's "caught."

Now that she's turning 16, Deanna gets a job at a local pizza place and finds an unlikely friend in the store owner. She also finally faces up to the boy who took advantage her and her parents. It's a good tale for a teenage girl to read--about strength, character, and how one mistake can haunt you for years.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

I may have just turned 36, but I have plenty of teenage angst left in me...and that's why I love these kinds of books.  A Catcher in the Rye got it started for me in high school, and YA literature has filled the gap for me just fine as I get older.  This book is littered with dog-ears thanks to me folding down corners to remind me to add quotes to Goodreads! 

Dash and Lily are two geeky/dorky/different teenagers in NYC who meet because Lily leaves a notebook with clues in a cool bookstore.  Next thing you know, the two are communicating via the red moleskin and falling in love. Nothing is perfect though, especially when you build an image of someone and they don't fulfill it when you finally meet! It's a snarky love story full of quirky characters--perfect! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, read by a full cast

I knew this was a popular book for public library book clubs, and I love World War II novels, so I gave it a listen. It was interesting, but not as good as I expected it to be.  I loved the details about Guernsey and what like was like on the German-occupied British isle though--fascinating!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

iDrakula by Bekka Black

Love the format of the book--iphone/iPad screen shots, along with emails. However, the tale itself is typical cheesy vampire story. I think reluctant readers will still enjoy this book though.  Mina's boyfriend has to take a surprise trip to Romania and then deals with everyone around becoming a vampire. Ummm...that's about it for the summary....

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I, Q: Book One: Independence Hall by Roland Smith

I believe that Roland Smith is one of the most underappreciated YA writers out there. Why? One reason is because I had never heard of this novel until it was nominated for Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults Adventure list.  And I should have! I read Peak back in March and enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to the first book in this series, even though I didn't like the young boy picture on the front cover.  In the book, Q is 13 and his new step-sister is 15, so I'm not sure why the boy on the cover looks to be about 8.  That's a real detriment to potential readers.

Q and Angela become step-siblings at the beginning of this book and also go on tour with their rock-singing parents.  As if that's not fantastic enough, Angela's real mom was a secret service agent who was killed in action a few years before.  And that's where the adventure begins.  The siblings are thrust into a world of espionage, Israeli terrorists, politics, secrets, and violence. I really enjoyed the non-stop action and appreciated the plot twists that were simple enough for kids to understand, but complicated enough to hold my interest.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

I'm going to shock some people with this review.  This book has received a lot of buzz lately--for good reason.  But I didn't love it. I loved the concept and the originality (so hard to find in YA fantasy!), but it took me too long to finish it. Normally I read a book in two or three days--or all night if I love it. But I found myself watching the rest of the TV miniseries North & South, and various other Netflix shows instead of finishing this novel. And that's a problem, right?

Karou lives in Prague (love the setting) and is surrounded with art, chimera, teeth with power, sorcerers, doorways to other worlds, and, eventually, a lovely man/angel that she falls in love with. I know this is simplifed, but Taylor creates an amazing world--read it and see!  I loved the story of Karou and Akiva, but wasn't too thrilled with the storytelling of previous lives. I might like the sequel better since there might not be as many flashbacks. Don't worry--I'll still read the sequel, and hopefully like it more!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Wolverine: Old Man Logan by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven

Okay, folks, so I probably shouldn't even be blogging about this read because it's not something I like to read.  I was grossed out by the violence, even though it was super-hero Wolverine violence a lot of the time. I just don't like to see blood-and-guts--in comic books, graphic novels, or movies.  So this was a difficult read for me.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

First Test: Protector of the Small by Tamora Pierce

I hate when I forget to blog about a book and add it to Goodreads. That's what happened here. I've read (or listened) to this YA fantasy novel before, but didn't keep track of it, so I had to re-read it for PPYA! But I'm glad I did, because it reminded me of how much I admire Pierce for her girl-power heroes.

Kel is only 10-years-old but wants to be a warrior like her hero, Alanna the Lionness. But things aren't fair when you're the first girl trying to train as a page.  Most of the boys don't want her there--including the training master. So Kel must prove that she's tough, smart, and a darn good fighter who is worthy to serve the king. And she does!

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan has done it again--redeeming himself from The Red Pyramid in my eyes.  The second book in the The Heroes of Olympus series is just as good as the first, The Lost Hero. Percy is back without his memory, but, of course, being the son of Neptune in the Roman world is just as good as being the son of Poseidien in his old Greek world.  The prophecies don't lie, and Percy is going to have quite the adventure in the next few books.  He's met a daughter of Pluto, Hazel, who is back from the dead and in this life to redeem herself.  Frank isn't sure which god is his father, but he's trying hard to live a heroic life.  The three immediate friends must go a quest given to them by Ares, and they don't disappoint the readers. I read this book in two days--full of adventure!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

While I loved the premise of this YA novel (the Grimm fairy tales were real!), the actual book fell short for me. I didn't feel like I wanted to know the characters, and the action seemed contrived. Elizabeth begins work at a special New York library where patrons borrow things. Things like one of the twelve dancing slippers or a magic carpet. Of course, the cool kids at school work there, too, including the star basketball player. Soon Elizabeth is involved in a mystery--someone is stealing magical objects (without following the proper procedures!) and she isn't sure whom to trust.

Once again, I'm wondering if this book is victim of inflated ratings because the setting is a library. Some librarians can't take their occupation out of their review, I think.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand, Read by Edward Herrmann

Absolutely, unbelievably, an amazing, fascinating, true story of a hero. People throw that word around all the time now with veterans, and, I'm sorry, but it's overused.  This guy, Lt. Louis Zamperini, is a miracle. Listening to this book came at the right time for me--my life is a walk in the park when compared to this guy!

Louis was a miler--the best in the world in the early 1930's, and, like many Olympians, he served in the military during World War II. I really can't give away too many details (read the book!), but the fact that he survived is amazing. His story, his perseverance, his persistence, and, later, his faith, is quite the uplifting story. It's not sappy, but Hillenbrand is such a good storyteller that you can't help but feel for Louis and his friends. Read. This. Book!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac

I'm a sucker for any historical fiction novel about World War II, so I was happy to see this YA novel be nominated for the Adventure Seekers portion of PPYA. It's always been on my to-read list, but I just never managed to read it. I knew about the Marines using the Navajo as code talkers in World War II, but never really knew the details. After reading this historical fact-driven novel, I feel like I know much more. In fact, that may be the only downfall--this reads a lot like a nonfiction book, but that makes it more attractive to some readers.

Ned Begay is sent off to boarding school from the reservation and has to learn to become "white" and denounce all things Navajo until it's discovered that the white man needs his language. The Navajo language is difficult to learn and a code developed from that language becomes the secret code of the Americans in the Pacific in the 1940s. But they aren't just code talkers--they fight, run between bullets, take hits, and die while in the Marines. The code talkers were sworn to secrecy until 1969, when computers could take the place of their code. Joseph Bruchac, while not Navajo, seemed to do a great job staying true to the Navajo ways in this book (at least to this white girl).  This story needs to be told to teenagers, and this novel is a great way for it to be told. My copy at PCHS is missing/lost, and I plan on purchasing a paperback soon.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb: a Novel by Melanie Benjamin, Read by Kim Mai Guest

I'm not exactly drawn to dwarves--I can't stand the reality tv shows out there. And I feel like they are treated poorly in most movies. But I added this to my to-read list after listening to a Random House book talk on it at an ALA conference.

Mrs. Tom Thumb, or Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump, had a pretty amazing history--perfect as the basis of a historical novel. Vinnie was raised with class, even though she was only 2 feet, 8 inches tall. She jumps at the chance to travel the Mississippi as a singing act. But her dream was always to work for P.T. Barnum, and eventually her dream comes true. She travels the world, meeting kings and queens, and living a luxurious life. She marries Tom Thumb for the media, and even fakes having a baby on her travels. Her life is a sham, even if it's a classy one, and she realizes this later in her life. All in all, listening to this audiobook made me sad. Vinnie was always chasing after fame and fortune, but never happy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Awww, I loved this book. It's a book about healing, and what reader doesn't want to think that things will turn out okay? Not perfect.....but okay. Hope is good.

Amy is devastated about the death of her father in a car crash. She feels guilty about it, and blames her drug-abusing twin brother, too. Now her mom has moved out to Connecticut, shipped her brother to rehab in North Carolina, and enlisted a friend's son to drive Amy from California to their new home on the East Coast. Amy isn't thrilled about driving this far with a stranger, but she isn't exactly thrilled about anything in the depressive state she's in. Roger helps. Their road trip makes me want to hop in my car, pull open the sun roof, and do some serious exploring of America!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Huge by Sasha Paley

Wil and April are paired as partners at Wellness Canyon (or Fat Camp, as Wil calls it) and the two girls couldn't be more different. April saved for months in order to afford the camp--she's ready to lose weight and learn how to stay healthy. Wil, on the other hand, is the daughter of two fitness club gurus, and sees staying grumpy and chubby as the ultimate rebellion against her wealthy, spandex-wearing parents. The two teens are supposed to support each other and work together to have a positive experience at camp, but it's difficult when Wil is not friendly and April is concerned about fitting in with the popular girls. It's clean read about friendship, boys, and self-esteem, but it isn't preachy at all--which is a plus for a book dealing with weight.

Pendragon, Book One: The Merchant of Death

This series is very popular at PCHS, so I was glad I had to read it for the Adventure topic of Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults this year. Bobby is thrust into a whirlwind of action when his uncle takes him away to a magical world.  Turns out, Bobby is a Traveler like his uncle, which means it's his duty to help people in other worlds so that all the worlds remain stable and safe. The teenage boy isn't sure that he's happy about this situation, and his angst gets in the way for the first half of the book. With the help of his friends back home and new friends in the Denduron, Bobby (of course) saves the day.

There are ten books in the Pendragon series, as well as a trilogy of prequels, a guide to the territories, and a graphic novel. Yes, I'd say this series is successful!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Why two covers? So you can see the difference! The first pink cover is the hardback edition, and not receiving much action at my library. It reminds me of a cheesy kung fu DVD-only movie. The second cover is the best, either, but at least it's more in tune with what YA covers look like nowadays.

Ai Ling is a prisoner of her times--she's female in ancient China and doesn't have power. When she is close to being forced to marrying a man she doesn't like, she runs away to try to find her father--the one man who can save and protect her. Her father was one an admired and respected scholar to the emperor, but now is scorned because of some unmentionable activity.

As Ai Ling travels to the emperor's city, she discovers that she has more access to the world of demons and gods than she knew. She is powerful, and must use her knowledge of the old stories to protect her newly found friends. This book is magical, fierce, and surprisingly a bit dirty-minded at times, but it all works. The sequel, Fury of the Phoenix, was published in March 2011.

Bad Island by Doug TenNapel

I enjoyed this author's Ghostopolis and was looking forward to reading this graphic novel. There are two similar stories being told here. Reese, a teenage boy about to runaway from home, is forced to go boating with his family. When the boat is wrecked on a lonely island full of threatening magical creatures, he must step it up and act like a man instead of a whiny pre-teen.  In the fantastical story, a rock giant teenage boy defies his dad to go off to war on his own, with dismal results. Obviously, the stories are connected eventually. The tales are serious, but the characters provide some funny moments--especially the snarky comments of the parents and the sister's fascination with her dead pet snake.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, Read by the Author

I was disheartened when I learned that this book was read by the author--I'm sorry, but that's usually not a good thing. And, just like I thought, the reading was monotone. I would have stopped if this weren't an Alex winner. After serving on the Alex committee for 3 years, I know I disagree with some books that are put on the list, and this is one I would have fought against. I can't picture any of my teens reading it--it's more of an older-woman-public-library-book-club novel. Sure, the premise is great--how cool is it that Rose can taste the feelings of the cook in what she eats? But the slowness of the action (or lack there of) and the slow magical realism disappointed me.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Pena

I was pleasantly by this read. Danny is half-Mexican, but has never felt like he fits in--at his private white boy school or with his Hispanic family in National City. When his mom gives him the chance to spend a summer with his cousin, Danny jumps at the chance to escape. He has trouble learning the rules or the community--and finds friendship in Uno, the same boy who punched him hard enough he needed stitches on his first day at the stickball field. The two boys form a hard-to-beat pitcher/catcher duo. Along the way, they help each other deal with their father issues--a serious topic that isn't handled this well in many books with male teenage characters. This title is on the 2011 Abe Lincoln IL book award list.

The Alchemyst: the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott

I know this book is a bestseller and popular. It's been on all sorts of book lists, including Illinois' own Rebecca Caudill. But I just wasn't impressed.  To me, the book became good about halfway through--and normally I wouldn't keep reading after the first 50 pages.  Too much telling and not enough action until the second half of the book.

Sophie and Josh are twins who find out that they are mentioned in the ancient codex that Nicholas Flamel protects. They find out they have untapped potential and could save the world or destroy it (Harry Potter, anyone?). Even though the main characters are 15, the book does seem to be for a junior high audience.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

What was almost a perfect graphic novel was ruined for me on the last two minutes when it became an after-school special about why not to smoke. "Nothing...I just don't feel like smoking anymore. I don't think I ever liked it. And it doesn't look as cool as I thought it did." Ugh--what a turnoff.  Couldn't that be said less blatently?

It also seems like this graphic novel is catering toward librarians--there's microfilm! And, although some librarians and reviewers won't admit, reading about libraries and librarians in books make them happy. :)

Anya is a Russian immigrant who is trying hard to fit into her high school. She wears her private school skirt short and smokes and is trying to lose weight. She doesn't even want to THINK about talking to the other Russian dork at her school. But when she spends a night in a cold, empty well, she discovers a ghost of a dead teenager who follows her around. The ghost is friendly--helping her "improve" her test grades, encouraging her to talk to the cute basketball player--but things aren't always what they seem. Ghosts aren't always like Casper.

Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy, Read by Sile Bermingham

I try to listen to a Maeve Binchy audiobook every now and then--the Irish and English accents fascinate me. Her books always include a large list of characters that somehow come together in the end. In this case, the people revolve around a new heart clinic. Clara is the director, and her employees, family, and friends, all are entwined in love and relationships after one year of the clinic opening. There's romance and heartache--typical Maeve Binchy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dust & Decay by Jonathan Maberry

500 pages of zombie goodness! This sequel to Rot & Ruin didn't disappoint! I know some of you aren't zombie book readers (I don't consider myself one either), but you have to give this author a shot! Pure action with a western twist of the undead.

Benny and his brother Tom are back and on the hunt for a better future for what the town of Mountainside holds. The hope of the aircraft seen in the previous book drives the brothers and their friends into the Rot and Ruin. But they don't get very far before the evil men of the nether regions interfere. Chong, Benny, Tom, Nix, and Lilah are all struggling to be the good person they want to be--and sometimes fate gets in the way. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Star Crossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Usually I'm a sucker for books about girls who are fighters, but I struggled to finish this one. Yes, it might be because Dust & Decay is next on my to-read list, but, still, the last third of book took me days!

Celyn has lived quite the life--she can see magic, but not create it. She was raised in a convent, sentenced to die by her brother, and trained to be a thief on the streets of Gerse. In a robbery gone bad, she escapes in a rowboat with strangers and soon becomes a lady maid to one woman--why not? She's soon in the middle of royal intrigue and has to use her thievery skills to save the day.

The charcter Celyn is great and there is lots of action, but the book just didn't stick to my gut like I love them to. I've got some fantasy readers in my book club, so I hope to hear what they think soon.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey

I've had this book at school for years and never read it--now I'll be recommending it to many of my fantasy/sci-fi readers.

Two different stories are told in alternating chapters. Sadima is a girl with magical powers in a world where she isn't supposed to have them. Though she's born in a poor farming world, she travels to the city as soon as she can to find a man who recognized her power to speak to animals. In the other story, Hahp is sent away to a wizard's school, and it's horrible. They receive nothing positive, the teachers are horribly mean and Hahp can't eat until he learns how to magically create food. His world is very dark--this isn't Harry Potter.

There is no conclusion to this book--the tale continues in Sacred Scars, Book #2 in The Resurrection of Magic series.

Friday, September 16, 2011

121 Express by Monique Polak

Written at a 3.9 grade level, this book is part of the Orca Currents series that is for junior high/high school students who have low reading levels. I have quite a few of these in my high school library and they are very popular with the lower reading level kids.

However, I'm not too impressed with this book. Lucas is starting a new school and decides to be a troublemaker so he isn't stuck with the brainiac image from his old school. The setting for most of the book is the bus--Lucas must ride the Montreal transit to school. And the kids are rotten--throwing stuff out windows, spraying the bus with Diet Coke, etc. They even give the bus driver a mental breakdown. Of course, Lucas "sees the light" and magically decides to defend "Raghead," an Arab kid he nicknamed. In reality, I don't see this drastic change happening. If he were a good kid to start with, he never would have taken up with the idiots in the back of the bus, even if he wanted to be cool. And the sudden change just doesn't fit with his bad boy attitude.

The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan, Read by Allyson Ryan

I loved The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and the second book, The Dead-Tossed Waves was exciting enough for me to place the third book in the trilogy on hold. The third book is just as good as the first.

Annah is reunited with her twin sister whom she abandoned in the Forest of Hands and Teeth years ago, and she is reminded of what LOVE really is. After living on her own for years, Annah struggles with the sense of responsibility of having family and friends. In a world of zombies and the Recruiters, normal people are dying. The Recruiters are so concerned about surviving that they aren't protecting the people anymore. The undead are hording and it seems like there might not be a place to escape to anymore. But Annah doesn't give up hope.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Daughter of Siena by Marina Fiorato

I had to read everything I could get my hands on by this author. I loved The Botticelli Secret and The Glassblower of Murano, so I had to read this one as soon as it came in on interlibrary loan.

Pia is a teenage girl in Siena in 1723 and always does what her daddy wants. She is arranged to be married to a horrible man, and is thrilled when he is killed in the famous horserace of Siena. But then she has to marry his nasty younger brother the next day instead. Pia's life stinks until she sees/meets the hunky horseman's son, Bruni. Bruni is gorgeous, strong, and a horse whisperer. Of course, they have to have an affair, although back in those days, they didn't do much more than gaze adoringly at each from afar. Pia's husband abuses her, and she soon is embroiled in an Italian controversy. The contrada leaders want to overthrow the Medici government, but Pia is willing to help the Duchess. Women will do anything for love, won't they?

As always, Fiorato delivers an awesome historical romantic mystery--just what I love to read between my YA reads!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I'm a sucker for a book that is designed oddly (see The Invention of Hugo Cabret or Bad Monkeys) and this is no different. Without the photographs, this book wouldn't have been the greatest.  But with them, it's pretty awesome, although the main character should have been a little younger, I think.

Jacob has grown up with his grandparent's stories of monsters and peculiar children, but never believed them until he sees a monster in the woods at the scene of his grandfather's murder. It becomes clear that Jacob must return to the children's home in Wales to try to solve the mystery of his grandpa's childhood and mysterious adulthood.

And he does.

One book design flaw that bothered me--the words are placed too closely to the spine of the book. I'm sure there's a proper name for that, but I didn't like how I had to keep cracking the spine to get the book to open far enough for me to read the words on the page!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren

The first book of The River of Time series starts off right! Some reviewers might say this book has its cheesy moments, but I think the modern language is a whimsical touch.

Gabi and Lia are bored when their mother drags them to Tuscany (again!) to hunt for ancient Etruscan artifacts. But a moment of magic in an ancient tomb sends the sisters back to the 1300s in Italy and the action never stops. Turns out that Gabi learned Italian, French, sword-fighting, and a touch of medicine and all of that helps her in her quest to save her sister and return home.

Gabi has a girl-power attitude which is out-of-place in 14th-century Italy, but the boys love her, especially hunky Lord Marcello. Sure, the romance is straight out of a Harlequin novel, but, sometimes, that's exactly what I want to read!

The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy

I'm a big fan of Ally Carter's I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You books, and I thought this book would be similar. And it was, but not as enjoyable.

Jess Parker has always moved around a lot and never fit in. When she settles down in her grandma's small Georgian town, she finds a boy to crush on and a mysterious note in her locker. Jess is invited to join The Cinderella Society, a secret organization of women who empower others to do good. (Don't roll your eyes, okay?) Jess finally has a support group of friends, but she still must work on raising her own self-esteem so the Wickeds don't bring her down. Add in the Villains and the Regulars, and you have all the high school cliques in one chick lit book.

I think my problem is the secret organization/spy/world-wide thing. It didn't work, but the chick lit part of the book really did. I know a sequel is already planned to come out soon, but I think the author would be more successful if she stuck with a Kieran Scott/Sarah Dessen/Ann Brashares type of book--leave the scifi/fantasy out!

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan, Performed by Kevin R. Free and Katherine Kellgren

I managed to listen to 8 discs (of 12) before I gave up. I loved The Percy Jackson series and didn't mind The Lost Hero (although I thought it needed tighter editing). So I was really upset that I couldn't get into Riordan's newest series involving Egyptian mythology. It just didn't work and I'm not sure why! Carter and Sadie are siblings who have been separated their whole lives, but are thrown together when their father disappears mysteriously at a London museum. Thrust into a world of Egyptian gods and goddesses, the two must find their father and hopefully bring him back alive.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Indigo's Star by Hilary McKay

Well, evidently I'm in the minority again, according to star ratings on goodreads.com.  Most readers liked this book.  I forced myself to finish it because it was nominated for PPYA. I have nothing against strange families, but I just didn't get into the action of the book at all. The characters were cool, but, meh. Maybe because this book is written more for younger readers? I'm hoping that's it.  I just didn't see an audience for it all with my high school students.

Indigo is a 12-year-old boy who is bullied at school because he's weird. His family is strange and he is strange--no big deal, right? When an American boy moves in, Indigo defends the new kid and the two become fast friends. Indigo's eight-year-old sister was my favorite character in the book--her innocence made the best parts of the book for me.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

13 Million Dollar Pop: a Frank Behr novel by David Levien

I enjoyed Levien's first Frank Behr novel, City of the Sun, a few years ago, so I graciously accepted a copy of his novel from Doubleday. I had a problem with the debut novel being *another* kidnapping novel, but I got the original plot line in this one! The setting is still Indianapolis (yay!), but the conspiracy is racinos and those who run them. Politics and economics control everything, even in Indiana!  When Behr gets shot at while protecting an Indy businessman, he can't rest until he figures out who did the shooting. Of course, because Behr is all mysterious and bulldoggish, it costs him his job (which he didn't really like anyway) and his pregnant girlfriend (which he did like, but couldn't figure out how to show it). A new emotionally wounded Gulf War veteran joins Behr in this novel, and I hope he finds his way back into Behr's life.  Can't the two of them start an agency? Hmm? Can't they? Because Decker and Behr have that strong-man relationship thing going on! And I like it!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness, Performed by Nick Podehl, Angela Dawe and Macleod Andrews

The trilogy comes to an end! Todd and Viola are still trying to defeat the evil guy (seriously, can you kill him already?) but things keep happening to prevent peace. Viola's people are nearing the planet and the Spackle are gaining power again to fight back against the humans. Todd is getting more and more powerful because of the President teaching him, while Viola is growing weaker because of her poisoned armband. I still think the first audiobook was the best, but I had to finish the series.