Friday, March 30, 2012

When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen

Felicita is rich, but sheltered (think Jasmine from Alladin) and wants to escape. When her brother wants to marry her to a distant family, she decides it's better to be poor. She runs away, finds some help with some street kids, and gets involved in a plot against her own wealthy family.

That's a quick little summary, but the unique fantasy elements are what makes this book interesting. Sure, there are vampires, but they're called bats and you're not quite sure what's going on when they are first mentioned. There's violence in Pelimburg, as well as strange, dark relationships between the characters.

Recommended for upperclassmen and adults.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Getting Over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald

Why read YA books? Because it deals with us old fogies, too! Sadie is in love with her best friend, Garrett. When he goes away to a writing workshop for the summer, she swears that she is going to try to get over him. He doesn't love her and she has spent the last two years turning into a female Garrett. She likes his music, reads his authors, dresses the way he likes girls to dress, and basically doesn't know herself.  It takes some new (and older) friends at a local coffee shop to help Sadie get over him. And, listen to this, girls. She DOES NOT date someone else to get over him! She tries to find herself--what does she like? How does she want to dress? What kind of boy does she even like? What does she want to do with her life?  Sadie starts to find all the answers and must fight temptation when Garrett comes home from class at the end of the summer. Does she give him a chance to love her? Is he worth it? Or, better yet, is she going to lower herself to date him?

What I love about this book is that Sadie's older friend finds herself losing her own dreams in the man she is dating and does the only thing she can think of--runs away. Did Dominique make the right decision? Yep! Which is more important? Law school? or a man who kinda likes you? DUH!!!!

Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick

All you girls who love to read dark, realistic fiction, this is the book for you! Jenna has an alcoholic mother, a cheating and distant father, a brother who escapes the family to fight overseas, and friends who aren't there.  Jenna is a cutter, too, so I know this book will be popular at my high school.

The entire book is told from Jenna's point-of-view into a police recorder. Jenna is in the hospital for some reason, and she's explaining her story to the officer.  But, whoa, is Jenna telling the truth? Did all this really happen? How much is made up? Or what she wanted to happen? Add in a freaky manipulative male teacher at school, and you have one heck of a dramatic read!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, Read by Grayce Wey

So glad I finally got around to reading this 2011 Alex Award winner! I can see why it's still a bestseller.

Kimberly escapes Hong Kong when she's 11, but her life in New York City isn't very good.  Her aunt pays their way and for her mother's TB medications, and then forces them to live in a gross roach-infested room with no heat besides an oven.  Kimberly and her mother work in the aunt's factory for almost nothing, but eventually they are able to work their way out of the sweatshop. How? Through Kimberly's brain.  She's brilliant and able to receive scholarships to the best private schools in NYC and then into an Ivy League college. Through it all, she loves her mother and tries her best to "save" the two of them.

My one problem with the story is this. If Kimberly is so smart, you know she was learning about workers' rights and minimum wage laws in school in junior high. She knew child labor was illegal. So why didn't she try to help her mother get a better job? Why did Kimberly agree to work from after school to 9 pm to help get the paltry amount of money they received for working in the garment factory? It just didn't seem like Kim was the type of girl to accept her problem, especially when she was in high school.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Love? maybe. by Heather Hepler

Sometimes I'm just in the mood for a light love story and this book hit the spot. Piper isn't into Valentine's Day--she doesn't have a boyfriend, her dad hasn't spoken to her in two years, and her mom is screwed up in love, too.  So Piper is a cynic--so much that she develops Consternation Hearts to sell at the candy store where she works. lol.  Piper thinks that she'll be happy if she could date her boy-crush, Ben Donovan (yes, you must use first and last name when talking about him), but even Ben disappoints her.  Like many a love story, Piper finds that the perfect boy for her is right under her nose.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Read by Jim Dale

I'd heard great things about this Alex Award winner and knew it was a huge bestseller for adult fiction. However, I was disappointed. Here's why.  The actual plot of the book in interesting---two old men sorcerers with nothing better to do use a person as a pawn in their own sad game. Winner lives, loser dies. The two children, Celia and Marco, are raised to be the best--surrounded by magic and fantasy, but not much love. That story I loved--and the characters in the circus like the young twins and the contortionists.  But, whoa, the story-telling took forever. Once the circus started, I felt like the action slowed--much like the ticking of the dying clock, and I found myself looking longingly at the other audiobook in my car. But, no, I couldn't give up after listening to more than half the book.  All in all, I don't think I would have fought for this one to be on the Alex list--I'm purchasing a copy for my school, but I bet it won't be popular here.  We'll see if I'm right...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Family for the War by Anne C. Voorhoeve

In this YA novel, Voorhoeve tells a story that isn't told very often about World War II and the Holocaust--children who lived in foster homes.

Franziska Mangold doesn't have much religion in her life growing up in Germany. She wears a cross around her neck, but her family is considered Jewish by the Nazi government.  Her concerned mother places her on a kindertransport with other children to escape to England to be safe during the troubles. Newly named Frances, she must learn English quickly and try to get her parents moved over to England, too.  But then the war comes to England and Frances is moved again to the countryside of England.

I've thought about how tough it would have been to leave home and move to a different country without parents.  But I never thought about how the children might become attached to their new families and NOT want to go back home! Children do adapt easily, so I'm sure this happened to many. Going home to a broken family suffering from post-traumatic stress would not have been easy.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

There seems to be a proliferation of road trip novels lately (Amy and Roger's Epic Detour, Going Bovine, Wherever Nina Lies, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors) but I don't mind.  I think every teenager wishes he or she could drop everything and drive somewhere with no adults, right?

Colby is graduating from high school and has been planning his road trip for years. His best friend Bev is going with him to Europe--they're going to see the tulips, and his mom in Paris, and all sorts of other landmarks that wandering teens should see.  But Bev changes her plans without telling Colby and he's left in the lurch. They still have a roadtrip up the West coast with Bev's band, The Disenchantments, but the road trip is a stressful one. Colby still ends up finding his way, though, and discovers that love is one complicated emotion.

This is different from LaCour's first novel, Hold Still, which was on the Morris Award short list. That one was a tearjerker. No tears here, but it's a good coming of age story about learning to love.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Agency: the Traitor in the Tunnel by Y.S. Lee

Mary Quinn is back for the 4th book of the series.  This time she's working as a servant in Queen Victoria's castle and trying to find out who the thief is.  While there, she overhears all sorts of secrets.  Who killed the man with the Prince of Wales? Is it her thought-to-be-dead Chinese father? and what will happen with the lovely James Easton? Will there be romance for Mary? Or will she solve the mystery of the stolen goods and save the Queen?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

It's always fun to find books that are a little different--Chopsticks is told like a journal or scrapbook.  Last month I read the adult novel The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, and this young adult novel is very similar in format.

Glory is an awesome piano player--her dad is her teacher and she has been playing her entire life.  Her life starts to fall apart when her mom dies, but a boy moving next door is her saving grace.  Frank is from South America and the two teens fall in love when he moves next door to Glory.  Her father isn't sure how to handle the romance, so he takes Glory to Europe for a whirlwind musical performance tour.  The two teens stay in touch with chats, emails, and postcards, but it seems like Glory is starting to slip.  For some reason, playing Chopsticks pleases her, and we think that perhaps she is slipping into an unstable mental state.  And this is when the book is up to the reader. What really happens to Glory? It's a mystery and a romance all wrapped up into one beautiful book. I'm looking forward to sharing this with our art teacher....

This One Time with Julia by David Lampson

For all of you who like weird books, this one is for you! Joe isn't the brightest boy in the bunch--he'd rather gamble than learn to read or be lazy instead of be productive. He might be LD or have Asberger's  or something else, but no one has cared enough to find out for him. His twin brother Alvin likes that Joe never changes, but Alvin isn't the most mentally stable kid in town either.

When Alvin disappears, Joe escapes with Alvin's ex-girlfriend and basically takes his place as pool boy. Joe falls in love (he thinks), but he isn't exactly sure what is going on with Julia's family or Alvin.

I'm really surprised Joe is able to feed himself or survive in his world--he seems so completely out of it. From the front cover, the reader thinks Joe is gorgeous, but he seems so dense that he doesn't seem able to function. It's always difficult to read about characters that are difficult to understand, and Joe, Alvin, and Julia are just not in my world. Thankfully!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

No-Name Baby by Nancy Bo Flood

Sophie thinks it's all her fault when her mom goes into labor early, almost losing the baby. Her mom has lost many babies before, and having Aunt Rae in the household doesn't make things easier. There are many secrets crowding the small house and Sophie is in the dark about most of them. Through lots of listening and connecting the dots, Sophie discovers a lot about her family, but comes to accept them.

Good for reluctant readers--the chapters are titled and short, and the entire book is only 103 pages with large font. Most of the plot is told through dialogue. I was a little worried about the oven scene--you'll see what I mean if you read it!

FYI Illinois school librarians--the setting is rural northern Illinois--there is mention of Joliet and Illinois Normal College.  Sophie's family is Italian-American and the boy she has a crush on is Polish-American.

The Princes of Ireland: The Dublin Saga by Edward Rutherford, Read by John Keating

I LOVE Edward Rutherford and all his huge epics (see New York: the Novel) so I was thrilled to see that he broke The Dublin Saga up into two audiobooks for me--much more manageable! Irish, Welsh, and English accents liven us this audiobook--love it!

In true epic fashion, Rutherford follows a few families from the beginning of Ireland up to the beginning of Protestantism in England and the problems it causes in Ireland. I listened to the abridged audio, which may have caused me to not get too attached to the stories of the families. I felt like there was too much history and not enough personal drama to keep me interested. However, I'll listen to the next one just so I can hear the accents again!

Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck, Read by Jayne Entwistle

I'll always read Peck's new book--even if it's for children and about talking mice! He's been writing award winners since I was a child--and it's even better that he writes about central Illinois sometimes.  See On the Wings of Heroes and A Season of Gifts.

 In his latest novel, a family of young mice go on the adventure of a lifetime when their human family travels to England to find a husband. The mice are extremely well behaved aboard the ship (not vermin, at all!) It's a cute little read--good for the whole family to read together.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

I'm starting to like graphic novels--I can flip through one pretty fast during a slow hour in the library! This artwork is familiar--I've read Brain Camp and Zombies Calling, so I knew the artwork would be clean and crisp.

Maggie is starting school for the first time as a 9th grader--her mom always home schooled her, but now her mom has left the family. Maggie has to depend on her police chief dad and three older brothers to help her. Making friends is difficult, especially when there is a ghost following you around and you've spend so much time with your family!

Recommended for junior high and secondary libraries. It's clean and handles topics like peer pressure, bullying, first loves, and friendship very well. My favorite page? Man hug!

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber

I really enjoy books like this. Ever see Ferris Bueller's Day Off? Where the whole movie tells what happened in one crazy day in the life of Ferris? That's what this book is like. Reminded me of Finding Lubchenko and The Rise of Lubchenko, which are two books that I highly recommend to boy readers.

Perry is a senior who had high hopes when he heard his family was getting a Lithuanian foreign exchange student. Unfortunately, she wasn't hot and interesting.  In fact, she was boring and he felt obligated to be nice to her.  When she all of a sudden wants to go to senior prom with Perry, he is forced to take Gobi by his parents.  And then the action starts! Gobi isn't what Perry thought she was. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but the night consists of high-speed car chases, the police, the mob, evil people, gunshots, murder, and revenge. I couldn't put this book down!