Sunday, February 27, 2011

Anahita's Woven Riddle by Meghan Nuttall Sayres

Can you tell I've been a reading fool lately? That's what happens when your daughter is hospitalized for pneumonia and strep and then contracts the stomach flu later in the week. I've been home A LOT and have mostly been hanging out on the couch with my girl. So while she's watching Good Luck, Charlie, I'm reading!

I know this book received a lot of press when it was published back in 2006, and I can see why. I'm a sucker for historical fiction set in other countries, and fell right into Anahita's story. She's a teenager in Iran, at the marrying age, but doesn't want to settle for being the khan's fourth wife. Her father and Mullah are persuaded to allow her to have a contest--whatever man answers the riddle woven into her wedding rug, she'll marry. What a contest, eh? She's taking all kinds of chances--who wants to marry a stranger? But, of course, it works out her.

I was taken aback by how outspoken Anahita was--seemed like an American was dropped into a culture where she didn't belong. I just didn't think an outspoken girl would be honored by her tribe--would she? However, I loved how much research went into the book and the sections at the back that gave me more information--glossary, reader's guide, author's note, acknowledgements, and references.

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier, Translated from the German by Anthea Bell

To be published in the U.S. by Henry Holt in May 2011.

This is a translation of the German international bestseller and I can see why it sells! I sped through it--fast-paced, interesting, and now I'm waiting for the sequels, Sapphire Blue and Emerald Green. Wish I knew German so I could read them now!

Gwen lives with her rich, strange family in London, where she's been in the shadow of her cousin Charlotte her whole life. Charlotte has been training her whole life to time travel, but it turns out that Gwen has the gift, not Charlotte. Unprepared and ignorant about her inherited gift, Gwen is thrust into a new world. She meets her ancestors, but isn't sure who to trust. What's Gwen's purpose in life now? She isn't sure, but I can't wait to find out in the next book!

Spoiled by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

I was expecting a Gossip Girl-ish book, and that is like, totally, what I got for the first few chapters! Like, omg! :) But I liked reading it, especially when the book dropped some of the brand-droppings, and got into the meat of the story. Sure, the story has been done before, but with the great cover on this one, it's going to very popular in bookstores!

Molly's mom is dying from cancer and admits a confession on her deathbed--Molly's dad is Brick Berlin--a movie star/director/everything famous out in California. So when her mother dies, Molly moves from Indiana to Los Angeles. Once there, Molly isn't sure if it's the Cinderella-like world she wanted--her dad is great, but always really busy, and her sister seems nice, but suddenly turns against her. Brooke Berlin doesn't want to share the spotlight with her new sister, and tries to turn everyone against Molly--the media, their dad, and the students at their snooty school. When Brooke's enemy takes Molly under her wing, the reader knows something bad is going to happen, and, sure enough, it does. Molly isn't sure if all the glamour is worth it, but Brooke realizes that maybe a sister is a plus. The ending is a bit up in the air, but there is a sequel!

P.S. This was the perfect book to read while re-watching The Devil Wears Prada!

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

Back in January I finished the first audiobook of this series, Dead Until Dark, and raved about it. The second book is still pretty good, but now I'm afraid that every book will just about be the same--Sookie tries to be independent, but has to rely on her vampire boyfriend to save her from trouble. So I'm going to suspend my hold on the 3rd audiobook in the series to give me a little bit of a break. Hopefully, my foreshadowing skills are wrong! But, in the meantime, I have some YA audiobooks I need to listen to....

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Impossible by Nancy Werlin

Nancy Werlin is a young adult literature goddess. She wrapped me up in her spell last year with Extraordinary. She's grown so much since she wrote The Killer's Cousin! One thing that makes Werlin so awesome is that she can write in practically any genre--mystery, realistic fiction (like her tale about Matthew's life and his crazy mom in The Rules of Survival), and lately she's entered the world of the supernatural. But Werlin doesn't flaunt supernatural beings at you--she creates a modern world where there is a possibility of the fey. She did it in Extraordinary, and she does it again in Impossible.

Lucinda has been raised by two loving adoptive parents, but she's always known about her crazy mother, Miranda, who wanders around town with her shopping cart. Miranda always sings her own version of the ballad "Scarborough Fair," which happens to be Lucy's family name. When history repeats itself (Lucy is pregnant at age 18), scarier things happen. Miranda's mutterings begin making sense. A greater force may be at work here--the ballad is true. The Scarborough women must finish three impossible tasks to escape from the grasps of the Iron Knight.

Again, the fey are almost invisible of the story--this is the modern world. Lucy's love for her boyfriend is real and I was thrilled to see a "real" and successful marriage with Lucy as a teenager. That isn't something you see much in an YA novel. Lucy's love for her next-door neighbor Zach is what saves her, and she is able to break the curse of the ballad.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Before, After, and Somebody in Between by Jeannine Garsee

I understand why this hardback YA novel is so popular at my library. It's similar to a Simone Elkeles novel--gritty, hard-hitting, realistic fiction. Martha Kowalski lives with her mother, wherever the new boyfriend takes them. She's been bounced around her life, but manages to get good grades and survive. Now she's one of the few white kids in her new school, terrorized by the school bully, and trying to stay away from her mom's boyfriend who hits her. Martha wants to play the cello (of all things), and her dream comes true when she lives temporarily at a rich family's home while her mom is in rehab. But moms don't stay in rehab forever, and Martha is betrayed by those close to her. It's a sad tale about reality for a lot of kids. There isn't a fairy tale ending, but I think Martha is going to turn out okay.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stief Larsson, Read by Simon Vance

I'm working my way through the Swedish movies on Netflix, so I knew I needed to get to the third book of this popular trilogy. Lizabeth is one of the coolest characters in the world, but, unfortunately, she's in a coma for a lot of this novel. Luckily she is able to do her computer genius thing from the comfort of her hospital bed, thanks to the help from reporter Blomkvist. He's trying to save her butt from the murder charges brought against her, but he also knows that there are larger forces trying to kill her. Lizbeth (and her former Soviet spy father) are involved in some nasty government conspiracy stuff and it's up to Lizbeth to save her own skin, tattoos and all. I loved this one, and was especially glad I didn't have to listen to many details about the models of Ikea furniture in the rooms....

My Life, the Teacher, and Other Tragedies by Allen Zadoff

It's good to know that the cover of this book has already been changed from the Uncorrected Bound Proof I received at Midwinter last month. The old cover had a couple kissing on a movie marquee and it didn't fit the plot very well at all. I'm hoping there were lots of editorial changes, too.

The plus: I loved the details about being a techie in a large school production--lots of info about lights, gels, etc.

The negative: The friendships and relationships between the characters didn't seem real. I know Adam wasn't really working with relationships with the death of his dad two years earlier, but the realest relationship was the odd one between him and his has-been, never-was drama director. Adam's would-be girlfriends didn't seem realistic and I didn't really care what happened to them or his family.

Overall, I thought the plot was a good idea, but I just wasn't a fan of the execution. HOWEVER, I will buy this for my school because drama is BIG at PCHS. I'm hoping some of roughness will be smoothed over in the final hardback book.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

The Schneider Family Book Award rocks! This is the teen book that won in 2010 and it's one of the best I've read lately. Why? Absolutely great cover and interior page design. I like reading pretty books. Why else? The main character is deaf, but that isn't what the story is about. Piper is an 18-year-old who is trying to find herself. She's been the good, boring girl for so long that she isn't really sure who she is. But when a chance to manage a local teen band falls in her lap, she takes it. And runs with it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

Well, after finding the book cover image, I'm a little disappointed to find out that this was turned into a 1986 movie starring Daryl Hannah. I'm kinda afraid to even see if it's on Netflix, and, after seeing the reviews, I think I'll pass. The book, on the other hand, is freaking amazing. THIS is epic writing. I love it. I'm a fan of Rutherford (see New York), Pat Conroy, and many other creators of generational tales. I re-discovered Jean M. Auel during the Random House Preview at ALA Midwinter in January. They announced that the last book in this series, The Land of Painted Caves, is coming out in March. Something triggered a memory and I had to interlibrary loan the first book of the series.

Sure enough, I did read this alooooong time ago. I remember the sex scenes, and that's probably because I was in junior high or high school when I read it the first time. But, really, the idea of writing a huge novel around cave people who don't speak very well is a brave idea. However, Auel makes it work.

It's a time of earthquakes, mammoths, and early man. Ayla is separated from her people as a child and is rescued by the Clan of the Cave Bear. Everything about Ayla is different, and the Cave Bear people aren't sure if she's lucky or a threat to their civilization. The Clan doesn't like change, yet Ayla forces it when she is trained as a medicine woman under her adoptive mother's care and when she learns how to use a weapon. Ayla constantly breaks boundaries as a woman and threatens the very security of the Clan and its people. Meticulously researched, the early Earth world is full of wonderful details about healing, morals, and family structure. Definitely worth the read and I'll continue with Book Two.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel

To Be Published August 2011.

I keep delaying this blog posting because I'm not sure what to write. This book will receive a lot of hype--I was sent an uncorrected proof from Simon & Schuster last week. The cover is awesome, isn't it? And the author is Kenneth Oppel, best known for Airborn, a Printz Honor winner. I'm a huge fan of that series so I gladly dove into this new novel, even though it's billed as a prequel to Frankenstein. Um, that's not a good thing in my eyes--Frankenstein was a great story, but a horrible read.

Victor (I'm picturing a brooding Robert Pattinson playing the role) has always been competitive with his twin brother Konrad. But when Konrad becomes sick, Victor and friends try anything to save him, including a trip to the hidden cellar to find a cure with alchemy. Alchemy is banned in Geneva, but Victor wants to save his brother, even if a big reason is to prove his awesomeness to Elizabeth, the cousin both twins love. To create the magical elixir to save his brother, the teenagers must have dangerous adventures, mix with evil doers and risk their own lives for Konrad. All in all, Oppel created a pretty good reason why Victor creates a Frankenstein monster. The mix between good and evil, curiosity and stupidity, and love and obsession is delicately balanced. I can see this as a good movie with good-looking actors and actresses--it's full of teenage angst, forbidden romance, and dark intentions.

Cate of the Lost Colony by Lisa Klein

I do like to get my historical fiction kick. My library has almost all of Lisa Klein's novels, but I never read any, so I brought one home for the snow week. Lady Catherine is lucky as an orphan and is invited to serve Queen Elizabeth in honor of her father's service to the queen. But Catherine oversteps her place as she falls in love with Sir Walter Ralegh. Rule #1: Never fall in love with someone whom the queen loves. Never. As punishment for their love, the Queen banishes Catherine to the new colony in the Americas. Cate was doesn't see the punishment as that terrible--she's anxious for a new start and excited to play explorer. But her colony at Roanoke is doomed. The colonists don't get the Eden they planned on and must soon rely on the Indians to help them. Cate and her friends dwindle in numbers due to war, disease and hunger, and Klein creates a possible conclusion to the disappearance of the colony. I appreciated the Author's Note at the end.

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

Almost finished reading 2011 Printz honor books! I must admit the cover had me passing on this book for weeks, but it was interlibrary loaned so I knew I had to get to it. And, whoa, I wish it had a better cover! I know the symbolism of the blue and the gun and the mean guy, but it just didn't look good. So I'd like to thank the author for making me love books about the North again. All the best of Jack London and Gary Paulsen are in this one.

Sig is a typical fourteen-year-old--he doesn't like school and he doesn't like how his sister is constantly arguing with his step-mom. But his problems seem menial after one day. His father is found frozen on the ice, but that's the least of the family's problems. A strange, horrible, mysterious stranger appears demanding the rest of "his" money, and Sig doesn't know what to do about it. Does he fight? Use the revolver in the pantry? Run for it? Or hope that his sister and step-mother solve the problem for him? Sig's coming-of-age story lasts about three days, but it's a whopper. Throw in some flashbacks to the time when Sig's father and the stranger are in Nome during the Gold Rush, and the mystery is set.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

To be published August 2011.

I was thrilled to pick up this ARC at the HarperCollins Preview at Midwinter last month. I was the Alex Awards chair of the committee that put Wilson's Tunneling to the Center of the Earth on the 2010 Alex list. I loved its weirdness so I wondered if it would carry over to a novel.

Yep, it did! The Fang family is known for performance art--the folks are just strange and the kids are dragged along into the "art." So Buster and Annie did not have a normal childhood and now are dealing with the consequences. Buster writes novels, although not very good ones. Annie is an actress, but currently shunned because she walked around topless on the set and the pictures made it to the Internet. The two kids come back home to the folks, but then the parents disappear at a rest stop. Are they victims of a serial killer? Or is it another piece of performance art?

To give you a reason of why I love Wilson's writing, the reason Buster moves back home is because he is injured from being hit in the face with a potato launcher. I mean, really, it's like Arrested Development in written form!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann

I wasn't very nice when I blogged about McMann's Wake, so I took a few weeks to prepare myself to read her newest for teens. It's harder to be impartial after meeting the author, and I must thank Simon & Schuster for inviting me to an "intimate dinner" with the author at Suite & Tender a few weeks ago. Lisa is great and would be a welcome addition to any conference or author visit--call her!

Honestly and thankfully, to me this novel is an improvement to the Wake series. While still geared toward tweens and younger teens, McMann manages to create a creepy atmosphere in a small, rural town. Cheers to having a setting that ISN'T New York or California! Cryer's Cross, Montana, is tiny and teenagers are disappearing. First, Kendall's classmate Tiffany disappears and then her best friend/boyfriend Nico. When newcomer siblings Jacian and Marlena arrive, everyone is suspicious, especially because Jacian is playing the moody, grumpy teenage boy act. Kendall isn't sure what to think about surviving the media circus, especially when all the change is making her OCD act up. McMann discussed her daughter's OCD at Midwinter, and I do love how Kendall is a character with OCD, not a character in a book focused completely on OCD. Her disability is part of the story, not the focus of the story, but adds an interesting touch. All in all, I can honestly say that I'm a Lisa McMann fan now and I'm looking forward to her next novel!

Best cover tag--"The smaller the town, the bigger the secrets."