Bookends -- my chance to tell
you what I (the young adult librarian) have been reading. For the latest
tips, see this year's Bookends.
Accidental Love by Gary Soto
Southern California, tough girl, school romance. After punching out her best friend's boyfriend, Marisa picks up the wrong cell phone. When she goes to return the phone, she meets brainy Rene, who belongs to chess club, is a whiz at math, and goes to a different school. Determined to get her act together -- and get closer to this nerdy guy she's inexplicably crushing on -- Marisa changes schools. She works hard in her classes and is suddenly spending all her time with Rene -- trying out for the school play, doing homework, learning chess. Things seem to be smooth until one day when she's called into the principal's office....
The story was nice, but I found the writing a bit stilted and lacking polished flow. Nevertheless, it's a quick and solid read about a good clean young teen romance.
Y FICTION Soto
Are We There Yet? by David Levithan
Two brothers who have grown so far apart are thrown together for a surprise trip to Italy -- sponsored by their parents. Each brother is so sure that the other brother misunderstands everything about him, and they grow resentful yet wishful -- wanting to reconnect, but sure it can't be done. Elijah enjoys the freeness of the journey -- exploring the cities without destination, watching the people and making new friends. David likes plans and schedules, knowing where he's going and getting there. When Elijah meets and befriends Julia, and then Julia takes a chance on David, truth about the brothers' relationship begins to trickle forth.
This was a fantastic book -- a journey of two brothers rediscovering each other. I loved the places they visited (I want to visit Italy even more now!) and how real the two brothers were written. As he did in his other books, Levithan created a beautifully literary story about people. Quite recommended.
Y FICTION Levithan
As Simple As Snow by Gregory Galloway
Anna/Anastasia -- the new girl in town. Goth, slightly spooky, with a hobby for writing obituaries and a penchant for odd books, houdini tricks, mysteries, tidbits of information, and postcards -- and she hooks up with the most normal boy in school -- because he obviously needs some excitement in his life -- and unlikely though it may seem, they make a happy couple -- mix CDs, ghost stories, riddles.... Until a week before Valentine's Day she disappears, leaving only a dress lain out across the iced-over river and plenty of questions -- and are the answers in the pieces of conversations, letters, music, activities -- each word, each action of the last 5 months seems significant.
I loved this book! I definitely recommend it for the high school set. The writing was compelling, the story intriguing, and the ending -- well, I'll let you discover that for yourself! A fantastic read!
A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
One school year, one bad boy, three girls who let him under their skin and into their blood -- these are the stories of Josie, Nicolette, and Aviva -- and "LT." When Josie first falls for LT, she falls hard, harder than she -- a strong, smart, pretty, confident girl -- should or had ever considered. But when he goes too far and then dumps her, she vows to warn all the girls in her school about the bad boy. Writing a warning in the back of Judy Blume's
Forever in the library, she begins to pass notes around to all the girls in school. The warning is taken and expanded on by many, but two more girls get taken through their paces -- desire, love, pain, anger -- and eventually realization.
Written in free-verse poetry, this is a super-fast read -- I think I read it during the course of a lunch hour and a break, and did enjoy it -- we all seem to fall for at least one bad boy over the course of time.... Three stories, individually told, definitely capturing the emotions of girls smitten, broken, and pulled back together, stronger than they began. There is some sexual content in the three stories.
Y FICTION Stone
Banana Sunday by Root Nibot & Collen Coover
Kirby is starting at a new high school -- with her three talking monkeys -- one with super intellect, one who's a lady's man, and one who eats everything. Needless to say, Kirby has trouble fitting in. When she befriends the school reporter, the truth is bound to get out!
Full of the kind of fun only books with monkeys and bananas can have, this was an easy read with some laughs and definitely some smiles and even a few surprises.
Y GRAPHIC NOV Nibot
Beating Heart by A.M. Jenkins
Beating Heart is a ghost story, smoothly written and enjoyable. Evan's mother has moved the family to a new home -- new for them anyway -- it's a huge, rundown, abandoned for years, and Evan is less than impressed -- and less than pleased to be further away from his girlfriend and in an area where he has to entertain his little sister all the time. But the house isn't totally abandoned -- the ghost of a girl from years past still resides there. He fascinates her and she begins to present herself in his dreams. Secrets are exposed, desires, too....
Written in prose (Evan) and loose form poetry (ghost girl), this was a lovely ghost tale of desire, love, family, confusion, relationships, and all those things that make life what it is -- plus, it's a quick read! I really enjoyed it.
Beka Cooper: Terrier by Tamora Pierce
Beka Cooper is a puppy, training to become one of the Dogs -- the guard that polices Tortall. Joined with a pair of famed veteran Dogs, they enforce the rough & tough Lower City. Beka's a quick-witted puppy and often surprises her trainers with her skill, yet she's shy, and a much better listener and observer than talker. So when the ghosts of the dead start crying out to her, and when one of those ghosts is the young son of her friend, she begins an investigation that leads her and her dogs to the Court of the Rogue and the danger of the Shadow Snake. Greed, riches, loyalties, false faces, friendships, crime, murder....
Tamora Pierce does it again, wrapping a gripping mystery, fantastic adventure, and a story of character and strength into an engaging narrative. Though the intro pages are a bit tedious, once the story got started, it was one I didn't want to put down!
Y FICTION FANTASY Pierce
Boy Kills Man by Matt Whyman
Life is just life for Sonny and Alberto, best friends living in a barrio in Colombia. Drug dealers make the money and control the law and have no fear. When Alberto becomes a hit man, their lives change. Alberto makes money and buys gifts but is never around; then he disappears. Sonny (aka Shorty) decides to move on in and make his way as a hit man, too. But if you're a low man on the totem pole, things don't always go as smooth as you might like.
This was a quick read but full of imagery and somewhat terrifying -- children with guns, hired to kill and be killed. I needed to read it.
Y FICTION Whyman
California Blue by David Klass
John has always felt out of place in his family of stubborn and tough football players, auto mechanics, and loggers -- he's a runner and a student, excelling particularly in science. When John discovers a new butterfly while running in the forest, he finds that his interest for science threatens not only the community in which he lives, but also the tenuous relationship he has with his family -- particularly his father, who has just been diagnosed with leukemia.
A different kind of sports story, a different kind of family story, a different kind of science story. Klass is able to blend all three aspects of this book into an interesting plot that hashes friends, family, and community members against themselves, each other, and other communities. It's a short book, but well done -- it made me want to study butterflies again and look into environmental protection groups!
A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
Not your usual ghost story. Not your usual story of possession. Helen has been haunting for over 100 years, invisible to the human eye and all but unknown to her hosts. And then one day she feels them -- human eyes are looking at her and they see her. Nervous but intrigued, Helen makes contact with the human boy, only to discover that possessing this boys body is a spirit like her. Love ensues, but how can a spirit possessiong a body hold and kiss and love one without? So they set out to find her a body. Now two spirits possessing young bodies must learn how to cope with the modern world and the former lives of their bodies while dealing with their consuming love.
I was less than intrigued after the first few pages, though maybe I just wasn't in the mood to start a new read. However, after the first chapter or so, I was quite pulled in and swept through the rest of the book with pleasure. It was a good ghost & love story, completely different than what I was expecting.
City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende
In his first adventure, Alexander Cold goes with his grandmother into the wilds of the Amazon in search of a giant humanoid beast that has been attacking and killing. It's a dangerous trip, not only because of the anacondas and jaguars and natives, but also because someone on the expedition is threatening the lives of others. When Alex and his new friend Nadia are snatched away by the People of the Mist and then led to the city of El Dorado, they are given knowledge that no outsider has ever been privileged to receive. But this knowledge does not come for free. Threatened with the deaths of their parents, themselves, and the People of the Mist, Nadia and Alex must discover who is working to destroy the natives and blacken the names of those on the expedition and stop them.
I thought this an appropriate book to read while in Brazil -- I was even reading while I flew over the Amazon! It's part of the summer reading list for middle school, and I think it's a great choice. Full of adventure and mystery, Allende has a great book here -- and it's merely the first of a series! Grab a copy and enjoy the suspense!
Y FICTION Allende
Drawing a Blank: or how I tried to solve a mystery, end a feud, and land the girl of my dreams by Daniel Ehrenhaft (illus by Trevor
This book is exactly what the title says it is. When Carlton Dunne IV's semi-estranged father is kidnapped by a feuding Scottish clan, the
up-til-now timid comic artist (Carlton) sets out to rescue him. From New York to Orkney he travels, in constant peril but soon befriended by a Scottish beauty who is training to be a cop. Action, mystery, a comic subplot (with drawn-in comic panels relating the story of Signy the Superbad as she rescues unfortunates)... makes for a fun read! You can hardly go wrong with a title like this!
Y FICTION Ehrenhaft
The Dream Merchant by Isabel Hoving
Josh Cope has been chosen -- chosen by the competitive merchant company Gippart to travel through dreams to seek out the forgotten Tembe people and learn the secrets of time travel. Sent back through the dream-time, Josh, two friends, and his dead sister escape death various times over, pursued by spies and driven by a mission. But in the world of dreams, nothing is as it seems....
Translated from Dutch to English, this is a fairly heavy book -- its 630 pages make for a long time reading; the story doesn't go as fast as the HP books and around page 335 things start to slow down a little bit. I did enjoy the story, though; it was imaginative and creative and great for those readers who have a chunk of time and appreciate the depth of European fantasy.
Y FICTION Hoving
Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
The glorious city of Elantris, with all its magic, power, brilliance, benevolence, was a city of gods -- or mortals so divine they could hardly be anything else. And it seemed eternal, giving hope to everyone. Until ten years ago, when the society in all its radiance collapsed. Now, people who experience The Transformation to Elantrian are cursed with leaprous skin, insatiable hunger, and bodies that won't heal themselves; Elantris itself is crumbling and rotting. When Princess Sarene comes to the city of Arelon, bordering Elantris, only to learn that her husband-to-be died only days before, she adopts the collapsing kingdom as her own and seeks its salvation; meanwhile, in Elantris, a small group of people tries desperately to forget their undying pain & disease, protect themselves from the gangs and guards that threaten, and uncover the amazing secrets of the fallen city and society.
Admittedly, I picked up this book because the author is a friend of a friend, and I actually picked it up twice b/c the first time I discovered I really didn't want to read it. However, the second time was different. After the introduction of the key players and situations, I absolutely devoured this gripping story. Full of interestingly-developed characters, treachery & intrigue & war, politics & societies & mercantilism, religious mysticism, and a search for truth and beauty, I definitely recommend this book for fantasy readers looking for more!
Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
This title was nominated as an outstanding book for the college bound by the American Library Association. It tells the story of a young girl who manages her own life with a sick mother who dies, an abusive father who dies, a strict grandmother who dies, an aunt and cousin who kick her out of their house. The girl she counts as her one true friend is black, and this also causes her some difficulty. However, she finally makes her way to a foster home, and for the first time in a long time, Ellen feels safe and loved.
Interesting yet simple in concept, the prose style is somewhat loose; not really my type, despite the wry and dry
humor. There were parts of the story I enjoyed and I was glad to read a comfortable ending, but I'll admit that I was rather glad that the book wasn't too long.
(The title character has been compared to Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield.)
Y FICTION Gibbons
Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey
Alfred Kropp, fairly average in everything except his size, which usually seems to get in the way. No family, no friends... when he helps steal the sword Excalibur and sets in motion a series of events that could possibly trigger the end of civilization as we know it, he convinces that last of the knights of the Order to take him along, and together they seek to reestablish possession of the sword and wipe out the bad guys before the bad guys wipe them out.
For being such a large book, this is a relatively fast read -- short chapters and plenty of action help speed things along. If you like underdogs and tales of Arthur or just books with action and adventure, this is a good read for you. I quite enjoyed it -- kept me glued.
Y FICTION Yancey
Fairest by Gail Carson Levine
The fairy Lucinda has struck again -- this time with a magic mirror. But the story actually begins with Aza. Left at an inn as a baby and adopted by the innkeepers, blessed with a gorgeous voice but cursed with a body and face that make people stare and be rude, Aza has only ever wanted to be beautiful. When the opportunity comes for her to accompany a duchess to a royal wedding, she thrills at the prospect but horrors that she will feel ugly. And she does. But a little less so when the new queen befriends her -- but then wants to use Aza's vocal talents for her own purposes. And yes, Queen Ivi is beautiful -- and will do anything to remain the fairest in the land. Like
Ella Enchanted, this is another retelling of a classic fairy tale -- but not completely obviously. It's a story of Snow White, a beautiful queen, little men who mine, singing, and love. This is a thoroughly enjoyable read with a tidy resolution (though I'll admit I was hoping to learn -- oh never mind -- wouldn't want to spoil it for you!). Particularly good for girls who like a little magic and fantasy in their books.
Y FICTION Levine
Heaven by Angela Johnson
Marley's mom says they were destined to live in Heaven, a small town in Ohio. They've lived there for years, ever since her mom found the postcard on a bench and the family decided to move. It's home and the neighbours are family. But when her mother and father tell Marley that they're not her real parents, that the uncle she writes to weekly is her father, Marley's whole world turns inside out. She doesn't know who she is anymore, she doesn't have faith in her family, and she doesn't know who to turn to. She has good friends, though, and a caring family, and eventually she is able to come to terms with the lies she's believed for so many years.
A simple book, but an important story. It was a quick read with real feeling. I liked it.
Heavy Metal and You by Christopher Krovatin
He wears spiked wrist bands, listens to heavy metal, and gets smashed with his friends. She drinks coffee at Starbuck's and enjoys posh meals with her preppy friends. Nevertheless, boy meets girl, falls head over heals in love, discovers huge dilemma.
This is a fairly typical different-sides-of-the-tracks love story where the two fall in love, expect huge changes in each other, and can't stand the other's friends and interests. What makes this different is that it comes from the guy's perspective and there is actual real emotion and caring apparent; also, the heavy metal and audio-motion button symbols. For a short book, it took me a while to get
through and didn't get me overly involved, though there were interesting and defining moments in the relationship that rang true.
Y FICTION Krovatin
Here Lies the Librarian by Richard Peck
Eleanor "Peewee" McGrath wants to be a car mechanic. It's 1914, cars are currently in vogue, and pretty soon there will be paved road just outside the garage she works in with her brother. She wears caps and pants and goes barefoot and has grease under her fingernails and is only a little afraid to stand up to bullies; she scoffs at school and dislikes dresses and was kicked out of the library for life years ago. But then four students from the library school in Indiapolis come to town in their gloves and dresses and shiny new cars, and Peewee soon discovers that there may be more to life than being a mechanic and fighting off the local bullies.
This books was lots of fun to read -- easy conversations, lots of bits of humour -- perfect for anyone who loved
The Teacher's Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts (also by Peck) or for anyone who wants a quick & fun read. Pick it up and laugh!
Y FICTION Peck
High School Bites by Liza Conrad
Lucy Hellenberg knows she doesn't live a completely normal life -- her mother is dead and her father refuses to leave the house, but at least she has a sort-of boyfriend. On her 16th birthday, however, everything changes. She finds out that she is the descendent of the Lucy in Bram Stoker's
Dracula -- the Lucy that Dracula was obsessed with -- and still is. Dracula followed the original Lucy and is determined to win his prize. And all his vampire descendents are after Lucy, and now her life resembles a movie -- she wear garlic perfume, garlic corsages, and sees vampires everywhere. She and her friends, with a little help from a vampire-hunting teacher and a great chemist, set out to destroy Dracula and end the curse on their families.
This started out with great promise -- a girl dealing with regular life and a legendary vampire, easy conversational writing, but the ending was quite pat and seemed to come quite easily and quickly.
I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
"Protect the diamonds, survive the clubs, dig deep through the spades, feel the hearts."
It starts during a bank robbery, when Ed Kennedy, cab-driver, snatches the gun dropped by the thief, who is quickly apprehended. In the courtroom at his trial, he threatens Ed: "You're a dead man." This statement, combined with a message Ed had received just days before -- his first card -- the ace of hearts with three addresses and no explanation -- sends Ed on a search to discover something about life. The explanations and answers come when he visits the addresses and realizes he now has new responsibilities, a real mission, something to make his life worth something. With every question answered and each mission fulfilled, Ed's life changes, easily at times, but sometimes forcibly and uncomfortably.
I've been wanting to read this for a while. The book got great reviews and won an award and just sounded interesting. I finally pulled it off the shelf this week and quickly became engrossed. The story moves quickly, and the messages given through the playing cards create a bit of intrigue. Combine that with laughter and love and life and a few beatings, and it makes for an absolutely enjoyable read. I really do recommend this one!
Y FICTION Zusak
I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League by Giffen et al
The Super Buddies are open for business -- with their own theme song and everything. They don't quite have the power-effective quotient of the Justice League, but they make do -- and then next door, opening sports bar, is an ex-super villain! And even more -- the Super Buddies old pal, Guy Gardner -- aka the Green Lantern -- is his partner! When Booster Gold wishes his team into Hell and Guy Gardner takes off to save them, things only go from bad to worse!
The second in the show, but the first I've read -- as I mentioned yesterday, this started smashingly with
humor and sarcasm and super heroes -- exactly what I like. However, the storyline of ep7 (when they enter hell) starts to waver a little in humour quotient and by eps8 & 9, when the alternate universe turns sexy, it's not quite so interesting. So, all in all, there was promise in the beginning, but the end fizzled. Have to recommend this for slightly more mature audiences.
Y GRAPHIC NOV Giffen
Iron West by Doug TenNapel
Since I've reviewed so many of his graphic novels before, suffice it to say that this story of robotic gunslingers and injuns in the Wild West, complete with a sasquatch a Loch Ness monster, is another positively odd and fantastic story.
Y GRAPHIC NOV TenNapel
Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos
Absolutely not what I was expecting to read...
On a Sunday after church, Ivy and her mother visit the Rumbaugh pharmacy, where Ivy spends many after-school hours. But today is a different day, and when she descends into the basement, she discovers a horrifying family secret -- twins Abner and Adolph, bound by a consuming love for their mother, have preserved their her -- through taxidermy -- so she can always be part of their life. Ivy's discovery leads to an acknowledgment of a disturbing family curse -- and one that she may be a carrier for!
Despite my not knowing exactly what I was getting into, I was completely taken by the title and dove into the book head-first. It starts off just a tad on the slow side, but builds. A bit gothic, a bit dark, a trifle weird, more than a bit disturbing... and yet, compelling. It's definitely a quick read and not for the faint-hearted, but it's something else....
Y FICTION Gantos
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
Maximum is a 14-year-old mutant, given wings and extra strength and a number of other skills by the Whitecoats at The School. When she and her flock (5 children like her) are suddenly set upon by the Eraser and Angel is kidnapped, she leads them on a daring journey to rescue her. When finally they reach the school and rescue Angel, they decide to head east, where they hope they will find safety. But even in New York City, where everyone blends in, they are discovered by the Erasers, chased and hunted down, and then told to save the world. It's a risky life, dangerous, hunger-driven, and it's lain on the shoulders of six youth.
Three things in particular about this book -- first, it's written for teens by a popular adult author; second, the writing isn't spectacular, but it's OK; third, the pacing is dead on: short chapters, fast action, cliffhanging moments -- it all makes for fun reading. Plus, there's
a whole website (with a poll and everything) dedicated to more information. Different than most YA books, it's a reasonably good read.
Y FICTION Patterson
Not the End of the World by Geraldine McCaughrean
This recounting of the story of Noah and the ark and the flood is told from the perspective of Noah's daughter, sons, daughters-in-law, wife, and the animals on the ark. They share their feelings about being cooped up, not being able to rescue those drowning, losing their home, dealing with their father's faith and their own doubts. Told mostly in the voice of Timna, Noah's daughter, the story is very much her interpretation.
NtEotW was a quick read, and I found it slightly troublesome -- the darkness, the bitterness, the doubt, the fear; however, it was atmospheric and well told. If you're looking for a book that will make your mind think a little differently, something to shuffle around those pre-conceived notions, try it.
Y FICTION McCaughrean
New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
In this captivating sequel to Twilight, the magnificent Edward Cullen leaves Bella Swan and disappears with his family to unknown locales. Bella, stricken, sinks into deep depression after the love of her life departs, barely going through the motions of living -- until she decides to take her life into her own hands by buying a motorcycle and asking a friend to help restore it. Reenter Jacob Black, a family friend who has a huge crush on Bella and takes his role as friend and protector very seriously. When Bella discovers that a vampire is hunting her for revenge and Jacob is drawn into a cult, all the forces in Bella's life are suddenly pitted against each other with dark and dangerous rage.
Fantastic. I began with trepidation, having quite enjoyed the first book, but as I read I found I didn't want to put it down. It was a delight to read, with only very rare occasional marrings. I can only look forward with great expectations to the
fourth titles. Enjoy!
Y FICTION Meyer
Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Three girls, at least one missing from her own life; a peach orchard; community service instead of juvenile detention; boys, boys, boys; family problems; hope and revenge.... Darlington Peach Orchard is in trouble -- but so are Murphy and Leeda (though Leeda doesn't really know it yet). When they both get sent to the orchard for the summer with Birdie, no one expects them to learn the secrets of friendship, hope, life, perfect peaches, and perfect guys. And yet, somewhere between secret midnight swims in the lake, secret crushes, and secret gardens, they discover themselves and the strength of their friendship.
This was a great girl read -- especially for fans of the Sisterhood books. A few flaws in the writing and a simplistic salvation in the end cause minor wrinkles in this otherwise enjoyable book.
Y FICTION Anderson
Polly and the Pirates by Ted Naifeh
Polly lives a rather dull life at a boarding school, until one night when her bed is maneuvered out of the dorm and onto a pirate ship! The pirates there believe her to be daughter of the Pirate Queen and in knowledge of the pirate queen's treasure map -- something that Polly flatly refuses to believe. But when a pirate prince gets involved and all manner of scurvy folk, Polly's quiet world becomes one of adventure, ships, treasure, and plank-walking!
Naifeh, also the creator of the Courtney Crumrin series, has total style. The pirates speak authentic pirate language, every character is true to form, and the drawings are fantastic. There may be a bit of syrupy sweetness here and there occasionally, but it's a great read for all ages -- entertaining and well done.
Y GRAPHIC NOV Naifeh
Psyche in a Dress by Francesca Lia Block
Psyche has known Love, but she is not a goddess. Also Orpheus and Hades. She has been an actress for her father, an unknown to her mother. She has been a muse and maenad. She has discovered self-loathing, emotional abuse, bruises, punishments, trials; but also truth, love, passion in this journey of life.
This is beautifully written, in prose poetry that evokes mystery and magic. The characterizations of
Greek mythology may be difficult to follow, but the journey of Psyche through her teenage years and into adulthood is one that can be related to. A quick but careful read.
Rachel & Leah by Orson Scott Card
This book takes a highly different tack than what we're used to seeing by Card -- no heavy science fiction or symbolic fantasy. Instead, this traces the lives of 4 women in the book of Genesis: Rachel, Leah, Bilhah, and Zilpah, and how they may have felt in their respected roles and how they may have interacted with each other and other members of Laban's camp -- and especially Jacob, the relative from afar who wins their hearts.
It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting from this, I guess. It was well thought out and interesting, but the writing wasn't always smooth. That may in part come from the time-period and setting, however. If you're interested in the lives of people in the Bible, it's a worthwhile read.
Rash by Pete Hautman
Imagine a future where McDonald's owns the prison system, where the Child Safety Act requires a full uniform of safety gear for all students playing sports, where football is illegal, and dropping an apricot at the grocery store could land you in jail. When Bo Marsten gets in a fight with a fellow student, his three strikes are up and he's out and he's sent to McDonald's Rehabilitation and Manufacturing for a three-year sentence -- assembling pizzas. It's a dangerous place, this plant -- the floors are naked cement, walls and corners have no padding, and polar bears patrol beyond the fence. But the most dangerous part of all is the Goldshirt gang -- favourites of Hammer, the warden. Bo wins a place in the gang and gets involved in a world of underground football, and his life takes on new excitement and new meaning -- until the artifical intelligence he created as part of a school project hunts him down and turns lawyer.
Another of those great futuristic dystopic stories -- that's a bit disturbing and could absolutely be life on the horizon. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would have liked more of it. It reads quickly and easily, even though some of the concepts, while conceivable, seem strange and unlike our present world -- but then, that's the point.
Y FICTION Hautman
Saint Iggy by K.L. Going
From the author of Fat Kid Rules the World (which I loved) comes another story about a down-and-out teen who hits bottom and wants to make his way back up again. When Iggy gets kicked out of school, the only person he can tell is Freddie, his dad's dealer. So he comes up with a plan to make something of himslef and treks across the city to find his once-mentor and friend Mo. Mo dropped out of law school to live an ascetic life, but when Mo suddenly gets into debt with Freddie, Iggy finds himself caught in a battle of wills between Mo and Mo's mother and between Mo and the dealer. And that's when Iggy discovers something he can do to bring value to his life and help his friends.
I liked this book. I'm having a hard time putting my finger on exactly what it was that kept me reading, though I tend to believe it was the characterization of Iggy. He lived a flawed and difficult life, probably quite unfair, but he was willing to accept the flaws and wanted to make something better for at least one person, despite what he would have to sacrifice.
Y FICTION Going
Sandpiper by Ellen Wittlinger
Sandpiper has had a bad reputation for a while now. Boy after boy after boy -- she used to think she wanted a boyfriend, but now she's been through so many -- practically one a week, and she doesn't know why or what she saw in them. One of the "exes" starts to harass her, and in an attempt to salvage herself in the situation, she turns to The Walker for help. Nobody knows who The Walker is or when he arrived in town or where he lives or why he walks, but as Sandpiper begins walking with him, she begins to break through his shell, just as he helps her discover good things about herself and her life. Through a summer of harassment, danger, familial tension, broken friendships, and big changes, Sandpiper finally finds something she's been looking for and never thought would come her way.
I was skeptical at first of this novel; it sounded pretty good, but something, perhaps the premise, turned me slightly off. However, this was a fantastic story of overcoming personal demons, discovering truth, and learning to deal with it -- even when it's harder than hard. Oh -- and I also enjoyed the poems that accompany each chapter.
Y FICTION Wittlinger
Scott Pilgrim: Precious Little Life
Scott, graduated, jobless, member of a band, is dating a high school girl, much to the concern of his roommate and bandmates. They met on a bus, he helped her with her dropped books... but he's not quite sure about the relationship -- and then he sees (at the library!) Ramona Flowers, a fashionable, tough, roller-blading delivery girl. And he sets out to get her. Little does he know that in order to date her, he will have to fight off her 7 evil ex-boyfriends -- and win against them and their extra powers!
I've been waiting for this in book format for months now -- and though I've only read volume 1 (we have 1, 2, &
3), I'm checking out the others soon. It's all about Scott's basically boring life
turning inside out when he meets a girl. Sounds typical, and yet there are just enough blips of abnormality... it's so much fun and a bit off-kilter.
Y GRAPHIC NOV O'Malley
Silverfin by Charlie Higson
This is Young Bond: Book One -- the introduction to James Bond in his youth. The story begins at James' new boarding school at Eton, but the real mystery begins when he returns to his uncle's house over vacation and discovers that a local boy has gone missing. In his attempts to find the boy, Bond uncovers secret scientific war projects, mutated animals, killer eels, and a man driven to create the perfect species.
I was looking forward to this book and the beginning of this new series, but was rather disappointed in the pacing and the writing and the characterization. It feels rather remote and filled with a variety of unnecessary details. Hopefully James will turn more into Bond in upcoming installments.
Y FICTION Higson
Snow-Walker by Catherine Fisher
Just as chilly as it sounds Snow-Walker is an epic fantasy tale, centering around the enchantress Gudrun and her son Kari -- whom she banishes at birth to a fortress in the desolate north to ensure her continued reign over her husband's jarldom. As Gudrun's tyranny increases, two cousins are exiled to the same fortress, hoping that what they find there -- whether beast, monster, human, or sorcerer -- will be something they can use to defeat Gudrun and her increasing power over the land and people.
I absolutely loved this book. I read it over the holidays, and once I had a few minutes to really get into it, I didn't want to put it down (and often I didn't -- even for meals). Magic, treachery, outlaws, creatures, trolls, quests -- this book has it all. A fantastic piece of storytelling!
(coming to the YA collection soon!)
Stolen Voices by Ellen Dee Davidson
In a protected city, youth are trained and taught to seek within themselves for their one true Talent -- the talent that they will use to help their society remain calm and free and joined by one voice. When it is time for her class to display their talents and be bonded together, Miri is shamed -- she has no Talent. Saddened that she will not be allowed to bond with her friends, she sneaks into the bonding ceremony and discovers horrifying secrets. Threatened with a life of slavery because of what she has seen, she escapes to a village on the outside and there discovers what freedom and peace really mean.
The first thing I noticed about this book (of course), was the cover, which makes much sense after reading the book, but which didn't make sense when I first picked it up. The story is interesting, a bit didactic and simplistic perhaps (especially in the resolution), but it does cover a new angle on the dystopic society and it's a quick read.
Y FICTION Davidson
Swollen by Melissa Lion
Another California teen romance. Star cross-country runner Owen Kilgore died of a swollen heart. That same day a new boy enters Sam's life -- and instead of running away, she runs right into him. Despite bothersome family issues at home, Sam finds herself enjoying the company of this brilliant, cultured, gentlemanly guy who takes her breath away and whom she doesn't really understand. After cutting cross country practices, missing meets, hitting all the different beaches, and wanting nothing more than to be near him, Sam can think of nothing better than letting Farouk sneak her out of her house and take her back to his. And after having sex together, Sam can only hope that maybe, just maybe, she will be pregnant with his child, who will keep them together always. Suddenly, however, their relationship changes -- Farouk is no longer around like he was -- and Sam must come to terms with the life she leads.
This is a beautifully written, psychological and emotional book, swollen with joy, pain, need, desire, sorrow, hope, anticipation. For a more mature audience than Accidental Love, I recommend this rich book.
Tell Me What You See by Zoran Drvenkar
On a snowy winter evening, Alissa and her friend make their annual visit to the cemetery where Alissa's father is buried. But in the dark and in the snow, Alissa misses a step and tumbles into an underground crypt where she is drawn to a young boy's casket. A plant is growing from the casket, from the chest of the dead boy. Before escaping the crypt, Alissa is compelled to take the plant and eat it on the way home. It takes root in her and soon she is having visions, seeing people who aren't there, resurrecting dead kittens, and attracting her ex-boyfriend-turned-stalker.
This eerie German import is a great read, quite unlike spooky books with vampires, zombies, and other creatures of the night. It's told in the voices of all the main characters, with some chapters overlapping, and seems to highlight the uncanny. Fabulous for those who like a bit of chill in their reading.
Y FICTION Drvenkar
Ultimate Iron Man by Orson Scott Card
Card does it again -- and this time in a new genre, telling the story of the origin of Ultimate Iron Man, from birth to young adult, from a baby with brain cells throughout his body to a young man who rules his father's corporation and invents weapons and
armor technology. Despite having no previous experience with Iron Man or Tony Stark, I enjoyed this beginning biography just as much as I hoped I would (it is Card, after all) and look forward to the next. A great piece of superhero science fiction.
Y GRAPHIC NOV Card
Vampire High by Douglas Rees
Cody Elliot has run out of options. Since he's failing all his classes and has no inclination to study, his father decides to enroll him in Vlad Dracul public school, where he'll be a major player on the water polo team and not have to do any homework. Sounds like a dream. But most of the students are tall, thin, with black hair and sunglasses; the principal has a pet wolf; and almost everybody has fangs. Welcome to Vampire High. When Cody starts making friends with influential students and working for his grades, eyebrows are raised and threats are made -- which, of course, only encourages him until great changes are made.
This was a fun read. A bit simplistic perhaps, but entertaining.
Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
This is a summer reading book -- and I'm glad I read it, even though I'm sure there's a student out there wishing s/he could find it. Yes, this is a story about a man who takes a walk in the woods, but not just any woods and not just any walk -- this was the Appalachian Trail. Two thousand plus miles from Georgia to Maine, through forests and mountains and hills and lakes and valleys; possible confrontations with bears, bobcats, rattlesnakes, frostbite, torrential rain, sweltering days, and crazy hikers. But it's not just about hiking through the lovely woodlands of North America; it's also about the history of the environment, the culture of the backwoods and the surrounding townships, human relationships, government hands-on/hands-off. It's the story of the trail, told seriously but also with plenty of humour.
When I started this book, I was all ready to pack a pack and head out onto the AT and hike it from start to finish. By the time I finished the book, I was all ready to pack a couple of meals and hike it for a couple of days. I enjoyed the book -- the personal account of the hiking accompanied by the facts and stories about the trail and America, intriguing facts and enjoyable narrative. I hope you like it!
Warchild by Karin Lowachee
A science fiction space adventure in the vein of Card's Ender's Game,
Warchild tells the story of Jos, whose ship and family were destroyed by a notorious space pirate when he was eight. It is a time of war; humans vs aliens; pirates vs all. Enslaved by the pirate to be trained and groomed into his service, he makes a desperate attempt at escape and winds up in the hands of alien sympathizers, where he is again trained and groomed but given a relatively peaceful life on a planet. Later, however, he is sent aboard a ship of humans as a spy. To stay alive, Jos must be a weapon, a spy, and convincing crewmember, but he must also keep his head and find the truth among the lies.
Another book I got into my hands and really didn't want to put down..., though I was a bit disappointed at some of Jos's reactions. Some of the vocab makes the eyes stumble over strange words, but anyone who's into sci-fi shouldn't have a problem with it. Look for the pseudo-sequel:
Burndive. I'm excited to read it soon (after the others I have piling up by my bed, of course)!
Water Mirror by Kai Meyer
An orphan recently apprenticed to a magic-mirror maker in Venice finds herself suddenly in possession of the essence of the Flowing Queen, the magic that has protected the city from the power of the Egyptians for many years. Leaders in the city are out to destroy the Flowing Queen, and so they enlist the help the obsidian lion Vermithrax, the Ancient Traitor and make their way to Lord Light, escaping all kinds of dangers and perils along the way.
The story has an interesting concept and is definitely an original along the lines of fantasy storytelling. However, the translation left something to be desired-- it felt choppy and a bit repetitive, which made it difficult for me to really enjoy. However, it did pick up and I'm sure I'll be looking forward to the second in the series after I've read some smoother reads.
Y FANTASY FICTION Meyer
Widdershins by Charles de Lint
This stand-alone novel features personalities that de Lint uses in some of his other stories: Jilly
Coppercorn, Geordie Rydell, and others, but they all become quickly familiar, even without knowing their previous histories. When Lizzie, a fiddle player for the Knotted Cord, inadvertently gets involved with a gang of
bogans, is rescued by Grey, and tells her story to her friends, she becomes enmeshed in a chain of events that can only be mixed up with the faery realm -- quarrels between ancient
magics, disasters trapped within one's own mind, wars to destroy this world and the other, the rescuing power of love, the potency of music and relationships....
When Alice Hoffman is quoted as saying "No one does it better," it's true. A wonderfully complex weaving of folklore, myth, fantasy, and reality bound by rich beautiful prose. I couldn't put it down and can't wait to read another
(Onion Girl, anyone?)
FICTION FANTASY De Lint
Your Eyes in Stars by M.E. Kerr
Jessie's father is warden at the local prison and Jessie loves hearing (and making up) stories about the prisoners. She keeps Wanted posters for gangsters on her wall and feels like a misfit at school. Then next door a German family moves in, and their daughter Elisa decides to become Jessie's best friend. They share secrets, crushes, stories, and suspicions. After one of the prisoners escapes from jail and a neighbour man turns up dead, Elisa's family returns to Germany and Jessie's family faces severe reprimand. But in the early stages of World War II, Germany is not the most stable environment and Jessie soon discovers the pain of losing a friend to the Nazi propoganda.
I quite enjoyed this book, though it seems split into two parts. The main storyline is the friendship of Jessie and Elisa and stories of prisoners. It isn't until about 3/4 of the way through the book that Nazi Germany really comes into play. So all in all, it's a good historical fiction, but not overwhelmingly focused on history and the war.
Y FICTION Kerr, M.E.