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.