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? ;)