Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Comet's Curse by Dom Testa

After the Earth passes through the tail of a comet, most of Earth's population becomes infected with a mysterious new illness, Bhaktul disease. It is 100% fatal, mutates, and seems to be infecting every adult human on the planet at a progressive rate. Enter Dr. Zimmer with his solution to save the species: a giant spaceship with a computer brain manned by a crew of 15- and 16-year-olds. Their 5-year mission: to colonize a new planet and continue the human race.

Yeah, I purposely referenced Star Trek. This book feels a lot like Star Trek with an all-teen cast. However, for some of us, that is a plus. Also, the staff is pretty cool and interesting, especially the computer, Roc. He is a wise-cracking, fun-loving genius who very closely resembles his creator. Oh, and there might be a stowaway attempting to sabotage the whole mission.....

This is the first book in a series and feels like one. You will slowly get to know the crew and their ship as they travel to their new home. In the first book, we really get to know the Council, the governing body of the ship, and the captain, Trianna. There is even already the hints of a love triangle. And no, not everybody gets along.

For a story, it is pretty exciting and sounds like it will be a fun trip. I personally would never want to be on a ship full of 251 teenagers, but it will certainly be interesting.

P. S. I would suggest this as a TAYSHA, but apparently it has been published before in 2005. Not sure how that would work.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede

“Everybody knows that a seventh son is lucky. Things come a little easier to him, all his life long: love and money and fine weather and the unexpected turn that brings good fortune from bad circumstances…And everybody knows that the seventh son of a seventh son is a natural-born magician…Nobody seems to think much about all the other sons, or the daughters. There’s nearly always daughters, because hardly anybody has sever sons right in a row, boom, like that.”

And Eff ought to know. Her twin brother is a double seventh son. Unfortunately, it also makes her the thirteenth child. And everyone knows the thirteenth child is bad luck and bound to turn bad.

This is an alternate history of earth, where people use magic. Eff and her family live on Columbia (North America) which is just beginning western expansion. It very much struck me as a Little House on the Prairie or Hattie Big Sky with magic. Wrede even uses a folksy, old-timey voice to tell the story.

I really liked the idea, and I really enjoye
d Eff’s voice. I did think that it was strange that the ARC said it was for 12+, I would have placed it 10+.

There isn’t a whole bunch of action in this one, despite magic being central to the story. Eff is an extremely likeable character, even though I would have preferred more character development. She is almost as scared of turning “evil” at the end of the book as she is in the beginning. This is the first in a series so perhaps this will be dealt with in later books.

Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott

“Everyone’s seen my mother naked. Well, mostly naked.”

Hannah’s mother has a website where she hangs out in lingerie and has video chats with men online. Hannah’s father is basically a Hugh Hefner type who runs some sort of pornography empire and has a reality TV show that follows him around. Hannah is understandably mortified by her parentage.

And so she’s attempted to master the art of being invisible. And she’s succeeded. Mostly. She wears baggy jeans, baggy shirts, and only has one friend – a girl who’s already graduated from high school. She works at a fast food call center with two boys from her high school. Josh, her crush to end all crushes (she’s convinced they are soul mates) and Finn, the boy who irritates her to no end but the one she feels strangely at ease around. What to do what to do!

This was a really sweet book. Hannah is a likeable character whose lack of confidence causes her to misinterpret the actions of those around her. It is probably obvious that the two boys she works with is a set-up for some fun love-triangleish reading. There is also much douchebaggery going on and Hannah’s apparent blindness to said douchebaggery is sometimes a little too much to be believed. But it is a sweet book that will appeal to girls looking for light romantic reading. The blurb by Sarah Dessen visible on the cover won’t hurt either.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cover Cage Match

It's been awhile, but here is a new one!

And well spotted Alison! This one might be the same model:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg

When Matt was 10 he was airlifted out of Vietnam. His mother gave him to American Soldiers and told them to take him to America. Two years later Matt is still having vivid heart-stopping nightmares and is unsure about his place in his adopted family. He doesn’t know why his birth mother gave him away or why his new family is having whispered conversations about him. He fears that they want to send him back.

Thankfully, it is nothing of the sort. A family friend, Matt’s piano teacher, who is also a Vietnam Vet wants Matt to attend a veteran support group. Matt has never spoken about his life in Vietnam. After attending meetings and listening to the vets talk about not only what they experienced in Vietnam, but also what happened after they returned home that helps Matt begin the process of sorting out exactly how he ended up where he is. It is raw and emotional. He better understands his birth mother’s motives, forgives himself for his brother’s injuries, learns to trust his new family a little more. It also gives him the strength to reach out to a boy on his baseball team who is particularly cruel to him. After all, they actually have much in common.

Quite simply, this is a beautiful novel. The use of verse is fitting. It is spare and lyrical. It makes Matt’s voice shine. I read this in little under an hour and I was choked up with teary eyes the entire time. Matt’s journey is heartfelt and believable. This is a must read.

Burn My Heart by Beverley Naidoo

Set in 1950’s Kenya, Naidoo tells a story of two boys. Mathew, the white landowner’s son and Mugo, a Kenyan boy who is their kitchen worker. They are friends, albeit not what one would ever consider to be real friends, colonialism had seen to that. Mathew, of course, is blissfully unaware of any inequities, while Mugo is quite aware of his place and role in the relationship.

The story takes place during the Mau Mau uprising, when native Kenyans tried to reclaim their land by force several decades after white settlers came and claimed the land as their own displacing the people who had lived there for generations. The Mau Mau uprising was bloody and violent. Violence stemming from both the whites in power upon suspected participants as well as Kenyans turning against fellow Kenyans who did not want to participate. 12,000-20,000 Kenyans died.

Naidoo carefully reveals the insidious and racist nature of colonialism. Telling the story from both boys’ perspectives really drives home how social constructs shape our reality. This is a powerful story and one that will resonate with its readers.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

“No one remembers where the paths go. Some say they are there as escape routes, others say they are there so that we can travel deep into the Forest for wood. We only know that one points to the rising sun and the other to the setting sun. I am sure our ancestors knew where the paths led, but, just like almost everything else about the world before the Return, that knowledge has been lost.

We are our own memory-keepers and we have failed ourselves. It is like that game we played in school as children. Sitting in a circle, one student whispers a phrase into another student’s ear and the phrase is passed around until the last student in the circle repeats what she hears, only to find out it is nothing like what it is supposed to be.

That is our life now.”

Mary lives in a village, deep in the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Aptly named due to the Unconsecrated (aka Zombies) who “live” there and that are only kept at bay by the village’s constantly maintained fences. I loved the setting. The forest was foreboding and claustrophobic. The fenced trails (were they chain link? Why not use steel? Surely there is better suited material? Was it just not available?) were suitably creepy and the peeks at the Unconsecrated were horrifying. The Sisterhood that controls the village were intimidating and I longed to know their secrets.

There was some really great writing going on in this book. I put such a long quote in this post because I was really blown away by that opening chapter. It was gripping, exciting reading. For the most part, I thought that the writing remained strong throughout the book, but it dipped a little towards the end. Although, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the story didn’t hold me as much as it should rather than lay the blame on the writing. There was plenty of tension, plenty of action, but the storyline lacked something. It was not as satisfying as it should have been.

For one thing, there are not enough answers. We never find out exactly what was going on with the Sisterhood. What nefarious secrets they kept hidden that almost certainly damned the village and I think this weakened the book considerably. The love triangle between Mary and the two brothers seemed a bit forced and actually served to make Mary less of a sympathetic character than she should have been. And really, if you have access to seemingly limitless arrows, wouldn’t you spend your days just shooting zombies in the head? Sure there are a lot of them, but there would be that many less if you didn’t just hide in a house and play dress up.

Anyhow, all said and done, I read this book in a few hours and will be recommending it to my teen readers. In fact I just had a girl ask for a scary romance book. I knew just the thing.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Deadly Little Secret (A Touch Novel) by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Camelia drops her favorite hoop earring and while she’s bending to pick it up, a car comes out of nowhere at top speed and almost runs her over! Luckily a mysterious stranger on a motorcycle swoops in and pushes her out of the way just in the nick of time. He is gorgeous (of course). After ascertaining she’ll be ok, he touches her stomach, stares at her intensely, and then runs away.

Three months later hunky mystery boy begins attending Camelia’s school. He is followed by rumors of his dark and murderous past (he apparently offed his last girlfriend by pushing her off a cliff!?!). Camelia wants to give him the benefit of the doubt and strikes up a friendship. Immediately she begins to get threatening letters, messages written upon her bedroom mirror, and pictures of her begin to show up in her mailbox.

Honestly, I almost have no words. Its not that it was absolutely terrible, it wasn’t. There was even some great suspense and the author threw suspicion on several characters to good effect. I thought I knew who the stalker was (I was sure it wasn’t Ben. If this is "A Touch Novel" surely we need to keep our “toucher” in the picture so to speak…)

What bothered me most (and there were a few things that bothered me), however unfair this is to the author, was Camelia’s wise cracking best friend named Kimmie. A Kimmie that was startlingly, shockingly, frighteningly similar to the Kimmy Gibbler of Full House fame. This is the image I had in my mind the entire book. And seriously ya’ll it was disturbing.

There were other things that were strange about this book, but honestly Steph at Reviewer X does such a bang up hilarious job of reviewing it, I should have just kept my mouth shut! Her review is not to be missed.

Kisses and Lies by Lauren Henderson

As soon as it was possible to, I got my hot little hands on a copy of this book. And this one starts right where the other one left off. Scarlett and Taylor still investigating the death of Dan who died after a kiss from Scarlett.

Plum, Scartlett’s nemesis of sorts, and her main suspect enters into the book early on in a rather unforgettable scene Taylor and Scarlett see her in a club table dancing.
“Her skinny legs flash up and down, and when she does that
squatting move again, which makes all the boys whoop, I’m pretty sure that everyone in front of her is definitely, as promised, seeing her knickers. I don’t get why it’s sexy to look like you’re about to go to the loo – even her face is all twisted up like she’s constipated – but clearly there’s a lot about being sexy I’m just not aware of, because it’s going down fantastically with the crowd.”
I think that, in a nutshell, is why I like Scarlett so much. She’s sarcastic, self-depreciating, resourceful, and witty. Taylor, one of my favorite characters from the first book remains great in this one. Sure, there isn’t any more shimmying up of drainpipes, but there are lots of athletic endeavors that are almost as impressive.

This one was much more standard teen detective fare than the first one, with more repetition about clues and suspects than I really wanted and perhaps with a few too many coincidences. Don’t get me wrong, it was still an incredibly fast, enjoyable read, it just was more standard crime solving whereas the first was more normal girl gets pulled into unusual situation. I also liked the introduction of new suspects and how everyone seemed as though they could be the guilty party.

I do wonder if we will see more adventures of Scarlett and Taylor in the future. Will they be pulled into other mysteries since this one is concluded? Or will the author move onto other projects?

And one final comment, what is up with that cover? The first book was so eye catching and this one is so…meh…what happened?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine (Take 2)

Original post from December 2008 can be found here.

After re-reading Broken Soup to see if it would meet our Mock Printz guidelines (it does it does!) I wanted to revisit my comments on the book.

Everything in my first review holds. This is an exceptionally beautiful written, emotionally charged book about the families we’re born into and the families we create. It is about how a family can be devastated by grief and disintegrate into something that barely resembles its former self. And, perhaps more importantly, it is about how you can pick up the fragmented pieces and recover.

The relationship between 15 year old Rowan who is essentially raising her 6 year old sister Stroma is something to marvel at. The way in which Ms. Valentine writes their love, exasperation, and their need for each and how she does in interjecting humor blew me away even on the second read.

“She asked me to draw a unicorn, and even though it looked more like a rhinoceros and should have gone in the garbage, she colored it pink out of loyalty and called it Sparkle”

Harper, Rowan’s sort of boyfriend, is also drool worthy. The way in which he approaches life, his budding relationship with Rowan, and his need to not settle for what is easy made him one of my favorite characters.


It was also the sign of good writing that Valentine was able to interject Bee into the story with her unmentioned truths and her semi-prodding questions and show the genuine desire to become part of someone’s life without it being at all creepy (and boy could it have been creepy). Certainly Bee handles things in a very immature and slightly cruel manner – developing that negative in front of Rowan was certainly cruel – but it was so obviously done without cruel intentions. It was believable to me that she had been through quite a bit and truly did not know how to approach the subject.

I still have some issues with Sonny not calling Bee mom, although upon my re-read I realized that this story must have taken place within a month, two at the longest. Perhaps Rowan didn’t spend as much time in both their presence as I originally thought. It wasn’t so obvious to me that Bee was actually raising Sonny as her son. Something I hope other readers will discuss in their writing about the book.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks

Nina is a reformed vampire. That means she attends her weekly support group meetings to kvetch about how much being a vampire is a bummer. And it really is. Contrary to public thought, vampires are a rather sickly bunch who are in a constant uncomfortable achy state. They aren't terribly strong, they are comotose for 12 hours of the day and so need a safe sun-free place to hang out. And they puke. A lot.

Luckily one of the reformed vampires is also a gerbil breeder and it is gerbil blood that sustains them. Although it is still a rather messy and embarrassing situation to eat one. One that requires a tiled room and much cleaning after meals.

Catherine Jinks has a really dry and witty writing style. I could really sense where she was heading with this story. Unfortunately, it just never got there for me. There were definitely moments where the writing really shone, but for the most part I found it to be a bit draggy. I loved the concept - vampires who are pretty much just bored, sickly, and bitchy, get dragged into a murder plot which keeps expanding out of their control, forcing them out of their comfort zone until they are actually in a reality where they are doing exciting "vampy" things. Although things do get exciting, the plot never really takes off. Part of the problem may have been that I never really connected with any of the characters. Especially Nina, I found her rather tiresome. So all in all, I was rather disapointed.