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  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.