Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cherry Heaven by L.J. Adlington

From the Inside Flap:
“Kat and Tanka J are starting over. The New Frontier is nothing like war-stricken City Five – no battle scars, no memories of their parents. It’s a perfect society, where everyone lives in harmony. Or so they say.”

Cherry Heaven is a companion novel to The Diary of Pelly D. Being a companion novel and not a sequel I felt confident going in that it wouldn’t matter that I had not already read Pelly D. After reading the book, I’m not so sure. I think the author does a pretty good job creating the setting, but there were details that I didn’t understand. For instance references to gills popped up quite a bit. Gills were getting irritated, they were airing out, so on and so forth. Eventually-110 pages into the book- it’s finally explained that humans have evolved and now have gills. Maybe she felt we already knew that, or maybe it was just poor writing. All I know is that for 109 pages I was going, what the heck are up with the gills?

Don’t get me wrong, there was much to like in Cherry Heaven. Shitzer, the swearword employed by characters on many occasions, being one of the most enjoyable aspects of the story. It sounds rude and slightly German which is doubly appropriate seeing as Adlington books are clearly influenced by the Holocaust. The custom of adding a person’s initial to their name was also fun and coupled with the futuristic sounding names helped to emphasize that this was set in a time other than our own.

Chapters alternate between Kat and Tanka’s story and an escaped factory worker who is hellbent on revenge. The factory worker’s chapters drew me into the story much more than the other. They were twisted, suspenseful, and divulged more information and clues than the other narrative. Kat and Tanka, on the other hand, seem sort of bland. Kat, is the quiet, smart sister, Tanka the beautiful, rash, loudmouth (who also has a bad case of the racism, a bad case of the superficial, and a bad case of the not very well developed character syndrome). In fact, although we are told repeatedly that sisters stick together, I was often left wondering why. Tanka is blatantly racist against the Galrezi, the gene tribe held in lowest esteem. She blurts out racist statements early and often regardless of the fact that her murdered parents were Galrezi and she is rude and dismissive to her sister. Sure, Tanka does have a shining moment late in the book, but by that time I was so irritated with her it didn’t seem as believable as it could have. In comparison it made Kat seem like a doormat instead of one of our main heroines.

The storytelling is a bit heavy handed and the ending is somewhat pat. Loose ends and character’s fates all tied up nicely. Fans of the first book will be happy to see closure to Pelly Ds storyline. Your avid science fiction fans will want to read it, but I think there better novels out there to recommend.

Other Reviews:
The Compulsive Reader

Every Freaking! Day With Rachel Ray by Elizabeth Hilts

Spending every freaking day with Rachel Ray sounds sort of frightening. She's just so darn peppy! I'm not sure I could handle that level of pep. I mean I'm a fan of it and all, but sometimes you just want to mellow out. And then there is also the fact she might be a terrorist...dude...I'm not even sure what to say about that "controversy."

This parody sounds like it will probably be pretty entertaining. Rachel Ray is ripe for the parody picking if you want my opinion. I haven't watched SNL for years, but it seems like a character they could really go off on.

Yummo to you too!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Kin (book 1 of The Good Neighbors) by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh

Rue Silver is worried. He mother has been gone for three weeks, her dad hasn’t been to work since, and she’s seeing things. She thinks. Then one of her dad’s college students turns up dead and suddenly the police suspect a link between the student’s death, Rue’s mother’s disappearance, and Rue’s father. For a reason that I’ve already forgotten, but it worked at the time, Rue starts researching faeries and realizes that some faerie lore fits in with the weirdness going on in her life. She pieces together that her mother was a faerie and she, in turn, has some faerie blood, which is what allows her to see the creatures she’s seeing everywhere – but that no one else can see. An evil grandfather (who looks as young as her) shows up with an ultimatum and Rue has to make some choices about how much she wants to embrace her faerie side, all the while trying to figure out what really happened to the dead student.

The Good Neighbors was packed with details – things in the background of one panel become important thirty pages later; things mentioned in passing turn out to be very subtle foreshadowing. When I started flipping back through, I was impressed at how early things were introduced, but there were times when I felt a little lost. Mostly, though, I really enjoyed it and look forward to the next volume.

Reviewed from ARC (thanks, ALA!), release date: Oct. 1, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

Evernight by Claudia Gray

Bianca wants to run away. Her parents have just accepted a job at the exclusive Evernight Academy and today is the first day of school. Evernight is a goth's dream, a centuries old building out in the middle of nowhere New England, full of perfect and otherworldly beautiful students. Of course, the one thing it soon has going for it is two very handsome suitors, Lucas and Balthazar.

Lucas is mysterious and antagonistic, constantly in fights with the more "Evernight-types" in the school; but he seems to be the only person who understands Bianca's reluctance to become part of the in-crowd. In fact, he adamently opposes her becoming "part of them."

Balthazar is definitely the "Evernight type"--tall, strong, worldy, and perfect. However, he is also interested in actually learning something and takes a very strong personal interest in Bianca. He is a nice guy, and quickly becomes Bianca's first friend at Evernight. But could he be more?

At first, this book seems like the same old story--girl goes to new school, something sinister is happening, girl is mysteriously drawn to boy, girl discovers strange secrets.....But about halfway through, there is a big twist and it gets really interesting....and kind of steamy. At places, it will remind you of Harry Potter and of Twilight, but it is so much better than Twilight. Bianca is in some ways similar to Bella, but much stronger and much more interesting.

All I can say is, check it out. Not going to spoil it for you...just saying any Twilight fans will enjoy it and it is sooooo much better. There will be more and I am looking forward to it.

*Okay, so I have thought about this book a bit since I reviewed it, and realized that I was a little too enthusiastic right after finishing. Don't get me wrong, I still like it better than Twilight, but the first half of the book is kind of dull. I understand that the author was trying to draw out the tension, but there were quite a few times when I nearly put it down. The twist in the middle sort of makes up for that. I just thought I should warn you. Plus, although Bianca is much more interesting than Bella, she is still extremely angsty.....

Other reviews:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Oh my good gracious. I have found a book that is now in stiff competition for first place in my 2008 favorites.

Todd Hewitt is the last boy in a town full of men. He has a month left before he turns 13 and in the eyes (and laws) of Prentisstown become a man. He can't wait. Only it doesn't turn out quite like he thought. He discovers disturbing pockets of quiet in the swamp. Quiet that shouldn't be there. Quiet that no one has known since all the settlers of New World were infected with the Noise virus that makes it possible for everyone to hear everyone else's thoughts. Secrets begin to rise to the surface, ugly, violent, dangerous secrets. Before he can blink, Todd must escape in order to survive.

The Noise germ that has infected all the men (it immediately killed all the women) has also infected all the animals. Todd has a dog named Manchee that he can talk to and they can hear each other's thoughts as well. Hearing the thoughts and spoken words of every man and creature is a loud cacophonous ever present sound. Hence the name - the Noise germ. It is almost unbelievable how the author manages to present what could be a confusing situation. He uses fonts which almost appear like illustrations as a physical representation of what being infected with the Noise virus feels like. It is so effective. He also uses italics for thoughts in many cases. And even more amazing he creates personalities for creatures (like squirrels and alligators and sheep - oh the sheep!) so their thoughts are exactly what you think they would be. And Manchee the dog is pretty much what you would expect. He is loyal, thinks about pooing a lot, loves to chase, and is the sweetest thing that will completely steal your heart. When I could tear myself away from reading (which was very difficult) it was to pet my dogs and tell them i loved them.

There are so many twists and turns to this story it would be easy to accidentally let loose with spoilers and that would be tragic. Luckily, the back cover of the galley (which says what I presume will be the inside flap) doesn't give away anything. I can safely say that it is almost non-stop action that will leave you breathless as you wait to find out what happens next. Todd learns some hard lessons. My favorite was that people fall from grace, what's important is not that you've fallen, but that you pick yourself back up. READ THIS!!! Seriously. Read it!

Other Reviews:
Educating Alice
Guardian Review

No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row by Susan Kuklin

From the back cover (of the galley): "Between 1990 and 2005, only eight countries in the world still sentenced people younger than eighteen to death for their crimes-Iran, China, Nigeria, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, and the United States of America." A powerful statement.

This book interviews men who were teenagers when they were sentenced to death row, families of those sentenced, and even victims of a man who was a teenager when he was convicted (and subsequently executed). It is very interesting food for thought. Generally I'm not a big fan of "in their own voices" story telling. I tend to think that that's why God invented editors - to tell a cohesive and tight story that doesn't meander and isn't full of "you knows" or "man..." or "does that make sense?" know, all those colloquialisms that are fine when you're speaking, but make for tedious and painful reading. However, in this collection of stories I get the sense that even though the author used their own words, there was quite a bit of editing to make it flow into an understandable narrative. And it is intense.

Never have I wanted to enter jail, but after reading this I want to even less. The men interviewed have been in prison and on death row from the time they were 16 years old. They are frank in their discussion of the savagery of prison life.

This book has a strong anti-death penalty agenda and I think by the end of the book it will have even the most pro-death penalty advocate thinking about whether or not an eye for an eye is the way we want our justice system to work. It is a book created to make the reader think about the criminal justice system and it most definitely accomplishes this goal.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Brothers Torres by Coert Voorhees

Frankie spends most of his time working at his parent’s restaurant, blowing things up with his friend Zach, and lusting after his object of affection Rebecca. He also has an older brother whom he looks up to. His brother is the high school soccer star with scholarships to various universities, he’s a chick magnet, and he’s extremely popular. What’s not to look up to?

The Brothers Torres is at its heart, a book about deciding what kind of person you’re going to be. Do you act tough in order to earn respect? Do you go along with things you know to be wrong to gain acceptance? Or do you stand up for what you know is right? Frankie has some tough decisions ahead of him. Decisions made even more difficult by the fact that his brother seems to be headed in the wrong direction and is attempting to pull Frankie along with him.

Frankie is a Hispanic male growing up in small town New Mexico. Spanish is peppered throughout the dialog, New Mexican food (which sounds absolutely scrumptious) is almost a character in this book. It certainly makes several appearances which will set your stomach to rumbling. Anyhow, food is without a doubt a serious issue in this particular town. The Dalton family moved in, bought out old family recipes, and created a restaurant empire. Many of the town residents are now dependent on them for their livelihood. An uneasy situation which rears its head in several situations throughout the book.

Your male readers, Hispanic, African American, Caucasian, etc. - they are all going to be able to relate to this book. Voorhees has captured something essential about what it is like for males to grow up in America today. I saw so many of my library teens in Frankie, his brother Steve, gang-banger Flaco, and the other boys. The posturing, the desire to be tough, the focus on respect, the general lack of understanding about what being a “man” is really about.

And Frankie is just an incredibly likable, sweet, funny, realistic teen boy. His struggles are believable. His character develops at a pace that seems reasonable. He’ll have you rooting for him from the first page. The secondary characters are also extremely well developed. His friend Zach, who in spite of the fact that he now has a glass eye due to an explosion gone wrong still blows things up in the backyard. His brother Steve who has been given too much freedom because of his starring role on the soccer team. Cheo, Steve’s best friend, and so on.

The cover will draw the boys in like flies and the story will keep them hooked.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hero-Type by Barry Lyga

Kevin Ross, Kross to his friends, has been labeled a "hero" by his community after saving a classmate from a serial killer. But Kevin feels conflicted about this label, especially since he holds his own and his father's dark secrets. And when a reporter publishes an inflamatory article about Kevin removing two "Support-the-troops" ribbon magnets from his car, he becomes a social outcast. So, what does it mean to be a hero, especially today? And what exactly do those ribbon magnets do anyway?

Okay, so this is definitely a somewhat political book and one that will be interesting to discuss with just about anyone. Kevin speaks to me; he has some real problems and hard questions that no one really wants to hear, much less answer. It is fascinating to watch as everyone around him reacts to his quest to understand and enlighten. His great secret, and that of his father, is very slowly revealed and hinted out; both are also multi-layered and much more complex than most people want to deal with. Right up until the end, you are wondering if Kevin will overcome his problems, continue his quest, and finally become a "hero."

I would really enjoy reading this book with a group of teens. The political and philosophical discussions alone would be electric. Possibly a future teen book club selection? Either way, I am anxious for others to read it, just to be able to fully talk to someone about it! So, I shall pass it on to my coworkers and hopefully have an energetic discussion on a future date.

Only found one other review:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Good Neighbors: Kin by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh

So, Holly Black has written a graphic novel and it takes place in the same world as Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside. And I snagged one at ALA! Here's my review. Feel free to add comments as you read it.

Rue is an unusal and adventurous teenager, with punk rock band friends and a habit of urban exploration. When Rue's mother disappears after a fight with her father, he becomes a suspect in not one, but two murders. Not only that, but Rue is beginning to see some pretty strange things around town; and now her mother's long-absent family shows up.

Okay, so the story feels similar to Tithe, but has characters that remind me more of Valiant. I definitely like Rue, though her moody looks occasionally got to me. That's when I reminded myself that a lot is going on in her world, including loss of a parent and a complete reassessment of who she is. She has a strong demeanor and a lot of confidence, even when very confused. Her friends are cool and interesting with opinions and attitudes of their own. And Tam (possible future love interest?) is quite intriguing.....

The artwork is just detailed enough without being photo-realistic. I especially enjoyed the variety of facial expressions and occasional use of background details. Darkness and light are pretty important in this story, and the artwork reflects that.

*Fyi, be on the lookout for references to other HB works, as well as some pop culture details. One of my favorites is on page 7 of the advanced reader's copy.
More reviews here:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Suckerpunch by David Hernandez

The first thing you’ll notice about Suckerpunch is the striking cover. It is so appealing, I was immediately drawn to it and picked it up to read. I’ll admit that my first attempt failed. I put it down. About 3 weeks later I decided to pick it up again and I’m glad I did.

It is the summer. Marcus is hanging out with his friends, drinking, doing lots of drugs, lusting after his brother’s new girlfriend. You know, the usual. What makes this summer different is it’s the first summer after his father took off. Right now its just him, his mom, and his brother. It isn’t actually that bad – until they get some disturbing news about their father. The next thing Marcus knows his brother and him are on a road trip to pay a surprise visit to his dad along with a couple of friends and a gun in the glove compartment.

This is a story about abuse and the way that it infects and affects the family members involved. Within a few pages of the story you know that Marcus’s father beat his younger brother Enrique. You know that the father is gone and that everyone in the household is still dealing with the aftermath. Marcus is dealing with feelings of guilt and impotence. Enrique is on anti-depressants and is increasingly angry. The mother is loving, but clued out. The road trip is the boy’s idea of a solution, an end all to their situation if you will.

There are some extremely crude references to a boy’s mother which seemed completely gratuitous. On the second read it didn’t bother me as much and didn’t seem so unnecessarily crude anymore (although, don't get me wrong, it was still raunchy). The author doesn’t use any quotation marks which lends the book a dreamy surreal feeling. An interesting choice for a book that deals with such stark issues of drugs and abuse.

Other reviews:
Los Angeles Times

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Mid-Year Favorites

Top Three:

Hunger Games-Suzanne Collins
North of Beautiful-Justina Chen Headley (pub. 2009)
Paper Towns-John Green

Other favorites:

Amulet: The Stonekeeper-Kazu Kibuishi
Jellaby-Kean Soo
Suite Scarlett-Maureen Johnson
Click-Youngran Lee
How to Be Bad-E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle, and Sarah Mlynowski
Tekkon Kinkreet-Taiyo Matsumoto
100 Cupboards-N. D. Wilson (pub. Dec. 2007)
Crimson Hero-Mitsuba Takanashi
Beauty is the Beast-Tomo Matsumoto
The Underneath-Kathi Appelt

Twilight Gets Fugged

and boy is it funny!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Black Rabbit Summer by Kevin Brooks

It was supposed to be one last get together before everyone moved on to college. It was supposed to be about reminiscing. It was supposed to be fun. It wasn't.

Probably because the five “friends” aren’t actually friends anymore. So they get together, get drunk, get stoned, and start to get on each other’s nerves. Then they split up and once they’re seperated things begin to fall apart. People argue, people go missing, act suspiciously, lie, and are never seen again. Everyone is a suspect.

The main protagonist, Pete, attempts to figure out what has actually happened. Not an easy task when no one is willing to share what they know. This is where Kevin Brooks’ writing really excells. He slowly reveals hints, secrets, little tidbits of information so that you’re sitting on the edge of your seat and are unable to put the book down. This is how a thriller is supposed to be.

I will admit though that the book is a big book. Maybe more of a tome. Don't let that scare you off. Once you start reading, once you know that events, terrible violent events, are just moments away (and that isn’t more than a few chapters in), I promise you will not be able to put the book down. At least I couldn’t. The bad guys are wonderfully menacing. The writing is dark, atmospheric, hinting of mysteries that can’t entirely be explained. And the ending is sort of typical Kevin Brooks, resolved, but no happy little bow - there are definitely things left to speculate about. Which is sure to frustrate some readers. I, however, am of the school that I don’t want to be talked down to. I don’t want every minutia of mystery explained to me because the author thinks I’m too stupid to figure it out myself. Kevin Brooks never dumbs it down. Just another reason to love him.


I especially liked the friendship between Pete and Raymond. I liked the weirdness of Raymond and how he had a black rabbit that he thought talked to him. And I loved how his disappearance is never really explained. Did he run off? Was he murdered? Was it the man with the moustache or was that just the drugs making Pete hallucinate? Was it a travelling carnie serial killer? And how much did I love being able to write that? Did Black Rabbit really talk to Raymond and then Pete? Or was Raymond just projecting his wants and desires onto the rabbit because he couldn’t express them any other way? Who mutilated his rabbit? All questions that are left unanswered.

****End of Spoilers****

Other Reviews:



White Sands, Red Menace, by Ellen Klages

One of the ARCs I was most excited to get at ALA was White Sands, Red Menace by Ellen Klages, the sequel to The Green Glass Sea, which I loved. I’m not as crazy about this one, though there were still parts I loved, so I’ve divided my review into two parts, Tea Cozy-style. White Sands, Red Menace takes place two years after The Green Glass Sea. Dewey has been living with the Gordons since then; she and Suze are as close as ever; and the Drs. Gordon are both still hard at work on new, exciting, and terrifying technology.

The Good

The characters.

I really enjoyed reading more about Dewey and Suze. Each of them makes a new friend in this book and those friendships let the reader see a more complete version of the characters we already know. Dewey is still dealing with her dad’s death and trying to find her place in the Gordon family. She’s not quite a daughter/sister, but she’s much more than an acquaintance. And, in addition to her own uncertainty, she has to wonder how Suze feels about all of it, and whether she’ll feel edged out by Dewey’s closeness with Mrs. Gordon. In the last third of the book, Dewey has to deal with an even bigger family issue, but I don’t want to give anything away. I’ll just say that I was satisfied with how it ended.

Suze has a much bigger part in this book, and it was great to get more of her story. She’s such a great counterpart to Dewey – they’re both super talented, but in totally different ways, so it’s interesting to see how their projects complement each other. (I kept wanted to know more about the author and her background – I figured she was more of a Dewey, but her descriptions of Suze’s art projects make it sound like she’s no slouch in that department, either.) In this book, Suze is dealing with the same blended-family stuff as Dewey, but is also witnessing her parents’ marriage deteriorate and having to reevaluate her relationship with her increasingly absent father. Also, she makes friends with a Mexican and Native American girl from the Spanish-speaking part of town, and the things Suze realizes/wonders about her friendship with Ynez seem pretty relevant even 60 years later.

The Story.

As Ellen Klages says in the author’s note, the 1940s are a pretty ignored period – history classes mostly skip from the end of World War II to the 1950s, leaving out the time when this book takes place. I enjoyed getting a picture of life just before all of the “world of tomorrow” type gadgets and appliances of the 50s.

The historical story here is half recovery from the Bomb, half wonder and concern about the V-2 rockets that Werner Von Braun is helping the Alamogordo scientists build. Mrs. Gordon (who I love, by the way), has been writing letters trying to reveal the truth about the effects of the Bomb and motivate people to pursue peace. Mr. Gordon (yes, I know they’re both Dr. Gordon, I’m just using Mrs. and Mr. to distinguish) is excited about the possibility of using rocket technology to develop better weapons and to ensure that the Russians aren’t the first ones in space. Mrs. Gordon thinks that the arms race is just going to get the whole world nuked, Mr. Gordon thinks she is being na├»ve in her pursuit of protective legislation.

However, the bulk of the story, like in The Green Glass Sea, is mostly the family relationships and living in a time when the space race is starting and the nuclear arms race is going on in the background. The things that Suze and Dewey are dealing with are, naturally, not much different than teenagers at any other time.

The Not-So-Good

The language (and the Language) kind of troubled me. Some of the dialog felt stilted – either unnatural syntax or unnatural speeches. There were a few too many times that Dewey says something at a strange time seemingly just to prove that she’s still smart. Or sentences that go on too long for how most people speak. Or speeches that seem unnaturally long in an “I have a lot of information to give you, so I’ll just have this character say it all to another character” kind of way. I’ve certainly seen worse in other books, but there were some here, too.

There were a lot of hells, damns, and pisses, and most of them seemed unnecessary, especially in a book that says it’s for 10 year olds. When it came from an adult, it sort of set the mood, but when it came from Dewey or Suze, it sort of seemed like the author didn’t know how to write kids’ dialog. And Language doesn’t bother me, but I could imagine a parent getting upset about the frequency here. We'll be putting it in YA Fiction, while TGGS is in Junior. What bothered me more was the combination of Dewey and Suze’s casual swearing and a lot of their other slang that struck me as anachronistic. I should have marked them as I came across them, but didn’t. Some of the ones I can find just flipping through, though: “That was a pretty nifty solution, Suze thought. Pretty damn nifty.” And “Suze looked, then smiled. ‘That cooks with gas! It’s just got a thicker sole!’” I don’t know. I guess “nifty” and “that cooks with gas” could be appropriate slang, but those, plus the random "damn" feel weird to me. Thinking “that cooks with gas?” kind of took me out of the story. Also, a work friend said that she was bothered that they used “lame” to mean “pathetic” in The Green Glass Sea. I didn’t catch it in that book, but I did catch it in this one, and I agree – that’s a much more recent usage of that word.

And, I don’t know if it was that after some of the language things, I was just looking for anachronisms, but it seemed like there was an awful lot of soda-drinking. Didn’t kids in the 40s drink, like, milk at home and just get their sodas at the soda fountain? It seemed like in every scene Suze and Dewey were opening the fridge and pulling out a Pepsi. *shrug* I didn't live at the time, so I guess I don't know.

One more kind of nitpicky thing: the title seems strange to me. I definitely get the White Sands part, but the Red Menace doesn’t seem to be present at all. If anything, it’s more still dealing with the Nazis than Communists.

Mostly, though, if you liked The Green Glass Sea, you’ll like this one. It’s very true to the characters and it’s fun to see how some of the things started in TGGS play out.

Night Road by A. M. Jenkins

Finished this one right after ALA, but just haven't gotten around to posting. Since I promised that I would.....

Hemovores are humans who feed upon the blood of omnivorous humans. They do not call themselves vampires. Cole is a century-old hemovore who has wandered the country at night, avoiding sunlight and observing omnis (regular humans). He is strong, controlled and apparently, immortal. And he still looks eighteen.

Now he must mentor a new hemovore, taking him on the Night Road and training him to control himself. Gordon really is a teenager and doesn't fully understand or accept what has happened to him. If Cole cannot train him properly, Gordon will need to be disposed of as quickly and quietly as possible.

This was a very different look at vampires, focusing upon the Thirst and the need to control it, as well as the nature of humanity. It is a traveling story, a coming of age story, and even has a bit of romance. Cole is very likeable, even though he appears to be cold and aloof at the beginning. He is every bit as conflicted as the typical teenage boy. So is Gordon, who is a bit annoying at the beginning in his inability to get past the sexual nature of feeding and his refusal to accept instruction from the more experienced hemovores. He comes off as very human, working well with the distinction that these characters may eat differently, live differently and longer, but they are still in many ways just teens.

One of my favorite parts is when Sandor (Gordon's maker) is going out on a date and Gordon asks if he is gay:

Cole: "Oh. And you said?"

Sandor: "I asked him whether he meant gay in the sense of 'merry' or gay in the sense of 'enjoying sexual pleasure with men,' and he said the second one. So I told him that if he meant exclusively with men, then no, I'm not gay, but if he meant when the occasion arises, then yes, I am definitely gay."

Cole: "And what did he say?"

Sandor: "Nothing. He just got an uncomfortable look about him."

Cole: "Charming."

Other reviews:

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Zombie Blondes by Brian James

Hannah moves a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. Her dad and her move whenever he loses a job, whenever he can't pay the rent, basically whenever they need to so that they can keep one step ahead of the bill collectors. Hannah thinks it sucks. Her father has promised again and again that it will be the last time. It never is. At least it seems that way until they move to Maplecrest. And then Hannah realizes it really can't be too soon until they move again.

Zombie Blondes, as you might have guessed is (drumroll please...) a horror story involving zombies (I know, I know, I probably didn't need to spell that out). James seems like he probably is a horror fan. He has some of the stock characters down to a tee. The weird kid who knows what is really going on, the new girl who refuses to believe even when faced with indisputable evidence, the scary sheriff, the absent dad who dismisses his kid's worries. Even so, he manages to throw in some new curve balls to the story. The villains in this story are the cheerleaders and according to the tag line on the cover, "They're Beautiful. They're Popular. They're Dead." Most excellent! Seriously, show me a horror fan that can't get behind that! It can't be done.

As someone who absolutely loves horror movies I was excited to read this. It didn't disappoint. Sure it was not terribly inventive, and Hannah does test the limits of believability with how long she goes before she realizes what's actually going on, but its still a fun ride. It was creepy and had a solid twisted ending. Sort of reminded me a little of A Nightmare on Elm Street just in the way that you think Freddie's been killed off, but, oh, nope, there he is driving the bus!

The cover is also incredibly eye catching and was created by artist Sas Christian who specializes in paintings of large doe-eyed girls.

Your horror fans and your even some of your more adventurous chick-lit fans will enjoy this.

2008 Mid-Year Favorites

  1. Me, The Missing and the Dead - Jenny Valentine
  2. Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
  3. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks - E. Lockhart
  4. The Adoration of Jenna Fox - Mary E. Pearson
  5. Sweethearts - Sara Zarr
This year feels like a really good year for Teen Lit.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

2008 Mid Year Favorites

1. Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor
2. The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
3. Hmmm...that's tough. Probably Smiles to Go by Jerry Spinelli

Savvy by Ingrid Law

Savvy is about a very special family. Each Beaumont wakes up on his or her 13th birthday with a magic power, or a “savvy.” When Mibs’ poppa is seriously hurt in an accident just days before her 13th birthday, she is sure her savvy will be the power to wake him up. In her desperation to get to her father, she gets her family (and a boy her age and his older sister) in an adventure full of laugh out loud moments, near disasters, and first kisses.

Savvy is rich with funny descriptive language. The Beaumont family and their powerful secrets live right on the line between Kansa and Nebraska; here’s how Mibs describes it:

Monday through Wednesday, we call our thin stretch of land Kansaska. Thursday through Saturday, we call it Nebransas. On Sundays, since that was the Lord’s Day, we called it nothing at all, out of respect for His creating our world without the lines already drawn on its face like all my grandpa’s wrinkles.

I heard lots of buzz about this book at ALA, and it's already a Boston Globe - Horn Book Honor Award winner. Maybe an APL Mock Newbery title?

2008 Mid-Year Favorites

The year is a little over half over so Patti and I thought we'd post about our favorite reads so far. I'm anxious to see what the rest of you liked this year so far.

I have so much more reading to do, but here are the ones that stand out for me, for various reasons.

Top 3 Picks:
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Paper Towns by John Green

Jellaby by Kean Soo
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor
The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
Life Sucks by Jessica Abel, Gabe Soria, Warren Pleece
Cicada Summer by Andrea Beaty

Monday, July 7, 2008

Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Princess Ben (short for Benevolence) parents die. She is moved to the castle to live with her aunt, who is ruling until Ben reaches the age majority. They do not get along. Queen Sophia is all reserve and restraint and Ben is indulgence and immaturity. Her refusal to learn the queenly arts ends up getting Ben locked in a tower at night. This horrific punishment actually turns out to be a boon. It is there that Ben discovers the true magic of the castle. Magic that is hers by birthright.

Ben begins to master her magic – staying up all night practicing, scurrying through secret passages, not being smart enough to be subtle so that the castle inhabitants won’t notice anything strange is going on. During the day she tries her darnedest to irritate everyone who is attempting to educate her in queenly behavior. I found this tiresome to read, but truthfully there were several good reasons why she was so bratty. She is, after all, a teen, she just lost her parents, and she feels completely out of control of her future.

Ben is no D.J. (from Dairy Queen), she isn’t as loveable, funny, or as well developed a character. Instead, I found this more of a plot driven book where I wasn’t as engaged by the characters, but still wanted to know the resolution (which in true fairy tale form is quite nicely wrapped up). Publishers Weekly called it the “poor man’s Gail Carson Levine” and I thought that was quite fitting. All the elements, but lacking some of the magic.

The YaYaYas reviewed this and also have compiled a slew of links to other reviews .

Sunday, July 6, 2008

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

Terra is tall, blonde, and beautiful--except for the port wine stain birthmark across her right cheek. Life has been a series of disappointing surgeries that failed to remove her "flaw," along with the tension and tyranny of her controlling father, two brothers who have escaped and no longer contact her, and a mother who just gives in to it all. When she gets into her dream school in the far-off East coast, she believes her own escape has arrived. But that is before her father squashes her dream, before one last surgery attempt fails, before she nearly runs over a pedestrian on a snowy afternoon.

The pedestrian, Goth boy Jacob and his adoptive mother, Norah, change everything, leading Terra and her mother on a voyage of self-discovery and vision. Now Terra's perfect map of her beautiful future becomes the cryptic cooridinates for a strange treasure hunt that just might save her.

This was an interesting story with a likeable but realistic protagonist, full of people with believable issues and attitudes. The framework of mapping and geocaching seemed like it would get old or irritating, but it really worked for this novel. Terra starts out searching for the Land of Beautiful, but slowly discovers her real destination is acceptance of herself and others. I would so recommend this book for teen girls, especially those with identity and beauty issues. It works on so many different levels--it's about self, family, romance, travel, art and much more.

Due out in February 2009, North of Beautiful is probably going to be one of my favorite reads this year. Check out the author's site Reader Girlz and Teri Lesesne's review.

Life Sucks by Jessica Abel, Gabe Soria, and Warren Pleece

Hello! Back to posting, finally, and with good reason. No, make that GREAT reason: Life Sucks, from those fab folks at First Second Books.

I enjoy the work of Jessica Abel so I was looking forward to reading this GN. I regret that I missed both of her book tour visits here in May. What was I thinking?

Vampire stories are everywhere these days, but thankfully the three artists/writers of this GN have brought in a little life to that genre. Heh. That's kind of a joke. Vampires. Bringing in life. :)

Oh, alright. Life Sucks is the story of Dave. Dave works the evening shift at the Last Stop convenience store. But here's the fun part - Dave's a vampire. He's pretty much the slave of his master who owns the store. The next funny part? It seems all of our late night employees (the copy guy, the coffee shop girl) are vampires. This is how they make their money - or, er, their masters make their money. Those castles and velvet jackets don't pay for themselves. That's just movie and novel mumbo jumbo. Really, though, the lack of velvet and black is super refreshing. The only folks in those outfits are the LA goths who lust for all things vampire and dark. Lots of poking fun at the vampire scene goes on here. Sweet!

Our hero Dave is "a nice guy". He doesn't want to kill people so he gets his blood from plasma banks. He's a vegetarian vampire and rather proud of himself to not have to kill to survive. He has a non-vampire roommate, Carl, and a buddy-guy vampire named Jerome. The kick in the story is when Dave falls in love with goth girl Rosa. She wants to be a vampire. He doesn't want her to become one.

Toss in the surfer dude/vampire brother-to-Dave Wes, Dave's capitalism-loving master Radu, and a few other young LA vamps and goths to round out the characters in our story. Our library catalogs this as adult, but it will easily appeal to teens. No nudity. Some swearing. The characters do not define themselves as teens, but I read them as young 20-somethings. This is a fun read that non-readers of vampire books (moi) will enjoy.

Also reviewed at:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Kiss Me Kill Me by Lauren Henderson

Two minutes after Dan kisses Scarlett he drops dead. No one knows how or why he died. The only thing Scarlett can be sure of is she wants to clear her reputation as the girl with the "Kiss of Death." Because, most importantly, if it’s true she’ll never get to kiss anyone ever again.

That introduction sort of made it sound like a lighthearted chick lit romp, which this book most certainly isn’t. Not that it’s some dark dreary crime novel either. Scarlett is a heroine who has compromised her integrity in order to join the popular clique only to have it come back and bite her in the butt. Big time. She recognizes this fact, accepts her responsibility, and is ready to move on. Only she can’t because she’s sent to Girl School Siberia, aka the private school her grandmother runs outside of London. She’s sarcastic without being bitter, resourceful, athletic because of her years training in gymnastics, and has an uncanny ability to decode social situations. I liked her. A lot.

There’s lots of foreshadowing. In fact it begins right on the first page. It added atmosphere and suspense to the story right from the get go. In fact, this book is nothing but suspenseful. It builds and builds and starting about half way through you start getting little drops of information that just make you thirst for more. Finally, in the last few pages you get a lot of answers (which are mega satisfying), but lots of open-ended threads remain (which makes you want to have the sequel immediately and will probably irritate you – or least it did a lot of reviewers - although for some reason I wasn’t too bothered by it). In fact, I think readers will be running to the library and demanding the next installment.

I really liked a couple of secondary characters. Taylor, Scarlett’s new friend at school was probably my favorite. She’s big, she’s strong, she can shimmy up a drainpipe. What’s not to like? I also enjoyed Plum, the leader of the popular girl mafia at Scarlett’s old school. She’s glossy, demanding, and is just this side of pure evil. She made a good nemesis.

Lots of girls are going to be drawn to it on the strength of the cover alone. Although if you look closely you’ll see the boy has a few sparse whiskers on his chin which are super funny in that teenage boy way of just being so proud that you’re able to grow facial hair it doesn’t matter in the least whether or not it actually looks good.

Good mystery. I am really looking forward to the sequel.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Dingo by Charles de Lint

Miguel is working at his father’s music store the day he first meets Lainey. She’s got a red curly mass of hair, a beautiful smile, an Australian accent, and a large dog that doesn’t seem to like Miguel all that much. He knows he’s smitten with her, but little does he know that she’s going to change his entire world.

The story centers on Miguel, an upright ethical fellow who isn’t afraid to do the right thing, even though it does make him a touch sanctimonious at times. Johnny, the town bad boy, who has the reputation and low expectations one would expect. Lainey, the girl who upsets their world and her dog, which is actually a dingo…or perhaps more accurately is so much more than just a dingo.

This is the first de Lint book that I’ve read that does not take place in his fictional city of Newford. It surprised me, but doesn’t actually have any bearing on the story, I just found it interesting because I was expecting a return trip. It features Australian folklore, magic, transformations, morality, and love. All in all, this one is one of the best and most original fantasies that I’ve read in a long time. De Lint has that talent of writing stories that aren’t overwhelmed by the fantasy elements. They just seem organic and plausible in a way that other authors can’t accomplish. So not only do they appeal to the fantasy fans, but it also makes them completely accessible to readers who aren’t into fantasy.

One thing I want to mention is that there are no chapters. Not a one. There are some line breaks in the story that occur at natural stopping points, but no chapters. Isn’t that strange? The book is such a quick read I was almost finished before I even realized it. It actually felt sort of like a 200 page short story. The writing just flows and the language is beautiful, clear, and well developed. You’re finished reading before you know it!

The cover is also stunning and totally relevant to the story. I do fear that it will keep boys away from reading this which would be a shame because it features such great male characters.