Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Forged in the Fire by Ann Turnbull

This was a good book, better than its predecessor (No Shame No Fear) with enough gruesome descriptions of prison, fire, and plague to keep me reading. That being said, I'm not sure it stood on its own enough to be award worthy. MAYBE.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Professor's Daughter by Joann Sfar & Emmanuel Guibert

An archeologist's daughter falls in love with one of her father's finds, a mummy who somehow comes back to life. There is no backstory, no explanations, no substance to this graphic novel. The dialogue is stilted (which may be the fault of its translation from French to English) and the artwork unimaginative; I felt like I was tossed headfirst into someone's mockup of an idea of what the comic might be when it was done. NAY.

The Baptism by Shelia P. Moses

Twin brothers Leon and Luke are about to be baptized. While this is fine for Luke, it is not so good for our narrator Leon. Leon knows that once he is baptized and saved he must stop sinning and that is something he likes to do a lot of. Can Leon hold off on causing trouble, arguing with the step-father and fighting the other kids in town long enough to get baptized? Underlying this plot line is a town of former sharecroppers who struggles with their own history. This is a poignant story and I give it a YAY.

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

This book centers around Stephanie, a smart 12-year old who just inherited her uncle’s mansion, and Skulduggery, an otherworldly detective who is a living skeleton. The day after her uncle’s funeral, Stephanie gets caught up in a battle of good and evil and learns about her family’s secret past. This is an exciting book with tons of action, snarky humor and strong characters. This is a good read for boys or girls, though it is quite violent so it probably skews towards older teens. I thought it was incredibly funny and exciting and so it is a big YAY for me.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

When the Mirror Lies by Tamra Orr

This book had a lot of potential, but that only made it fail on so. Many. Levels. It includes lots of statistics, fascinating facts, and real-life stories about people who have faced eating disorders, and touches on eating disorders that aren't covered in a typical school health class. It had a lot of problems, though. First of all, the setup was similar to that of a magazine, with so many things on a page that often I got confused about what order things were supposed to be read in. Also, there were a lot of glaring editorial errors like wrong verb tenses, missing words, and wrong forms of words used (for example, I don't think the author knew the difference between affect and effect as this particular mistake occurred a few times). At one point, I actually flipped back to the beginning thinking I'd been sent an ARC by mistake. No pun intended, but this is a big, fat NAY.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Red Moon at Sharpsburg by Rosemary Wells

The Civil War looms large for Southerner India and her family. They are sure the South will beat those Yankees in no time flat. The reality quickly hits as India's father, and every other male over 17, goes to war. India's dad needs his asthma medication and she goes to the aftermath of the battle of Appomattox to find him. What she sees is the horror. This is a fantastic anti-war book with many themes. India is an intelligent young woman who is more interested in chemistry than the "womanly arts". She realizes that even Yankees are loved and have families as she helps a dying soldier. A great read. A definite YAY.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Freak Show by James St. James

Billy Bloom is a fabulous teenage drag queen who makes the wrong kind of splash when he sashays into his first day of class at his new school in the swamps of Florida after he is sent there to live with his father for the first time in years. From the first page, the rapid-fire, conversational narrative tone clocks you over the head like a barrel full of glitter and goes screaming off at 100 mph, and you don't have any choice but to go trailing off after Billy for the ride.
Rather than just staying light and scathingly funny, though, James St. James takes us into all of the dark places that teens like Billy (and James) have to endure. It certainly won't appeal to everyone (and oh, the tragic cover art!), but I applaud the fact that this book and Billy Bloom are out there for the teens on the fringes. Two snaps and a YAY!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox

This book is the second book in the Dreamhunter duet; sequel to Dreamhunter. I have not read the first book and did not feel that this one stood securely on it's own. The general premise of this fantasy is... a world in which some people capture dreams to share with others. I thought it was unique and interesting but I had a bit of a hard time keeping characters straight without the background that I hope book 1 offers. I only read half way through this one
- it's a NAY for me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Strays by Ron Koertge

Ted is recently orphaned since his parents died in a car accident. His parents owned a pet store, and in this dysfunctional family animals came before people. Lacking many social skills -- in fact, he can talk to and hear animals better than he can communicate with people -- Ted is thrown into the foster care system. Despite the hard knocks, he comes out of his shell, makes friends with his foster brothers, and begins to turn his life around, with interesting results. This was a quick read, and I liked how completely matter-of-factly Koertge introduces the concept of communicating with animals -- this isn't any Dr. Dolittle story. It really grabbed my attention at the beginning, but by the end of the book I was feeling like it didn't really live up to its potential. A MAYBE from me.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott

I listened to this book on CD and thought it was really good. It is an action packed story that takes place in modern day California. Twins Josh and Sophie get caught up helping Josh's bookstore boss, Nick Fleming who turns out to be the immortal Nicholas Flamel. Flamel has been protecting the book of Abraham the Mage, also called the Codex, which has the recipe for keeping him immortal, along with lots of other prophecies and information. It is stolen (except for 2 pages that Josh has torn out) by another immortal, John Dee. One of the prophecies involves twins, so Josh and Sophie are pulled along for a wild ride as Flamel tries to retrieve the Codex. They meet all manner of creature, god and goddess from legend and myth. It doesn't really end...there will definitely be sequels. I'll give it a YAY because it's exciting, makes you want to know more about the mythical creatures, and is great good vs. evil plot.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Split Screen: Attack of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies / Bride of the Soul-Sucking Brain Zombies by Brent Hartinger

So this book is a "flip this book" which contains two stories in the one book. After reading one story (I read Min's first), I flipped the book around to read the other story (Russel's). After the first chapter or so of the second story, I had that sinking feeling that I was not going to enjoy reading the story as I realized that the second story was the same as the first, but from another perspective. The story did get better as it went on. I was glad that the 2 characters didn't know everything that was going on in each other's lives so the stories weren't complete duplicates.

I do think that teens enjoy re-reading books and might enjoy the repetetive nature of this "flip this book" more than I did. I enjoyed that some of the characters were gay, bisexual and lesbians and at the same time, it wasn't an "issue" book. But I didn't particulary love the storylines or the way the story was told. And I wonder if it would have been more effective to have alternated each chapter between Min's and Russel's stories instead of the "flip the book" approach. I'm giving it a NAY but a hesitatingly one because I think it is important for more books like this to become readily available for teenagers.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville:

I'm giving this one a NAY because it seems more appropriate for children than teens, but it was a fun, inventive romp through the abcity! Watch out for flying binjas!

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Peterson

This is a cute, well-drawn graphic novel, but seems a bit young for teens. Think Redwall with pictures. NAY for Thumbs Up!, though I would highly recommend it for graphic novel collections geared toward a younger set. Plus, did you know this guy's local and that this series is getting all sorts of positive attention in the comics world? Might be a great program to get him into your libraries!

Rat Life by Tedd Arnold

The year is 1972, and Todd spends his free time working without pay at his family's motel and writing stories for his friends. Through a gut-wrenching incident, he ends up being offered a job at the local drive-in theatre by a guy named Rat. Mysteries ensue, such as: Who exactly is Rat? How about the dead guy in the river? Will the town survive the big flood?
Yeah, I think the author tried to pack too much into this book, and some of the language wasn't accurate for 1972. NAY.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti

Jade DeLuna is a high school senior with an anxiety disorder. To help keep her anxiety attacks at bay, she visits the elephants at the local zoo. There, she meets Sebastian, a teenage father who is raising his son on his own.

I am a rampant fan of Caletti's earlier book Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, but this book didn't do much for me. Caletti's portrayal of anxiety attacks is eerily accurate and there's something mildly compelling about Jade's character and the elephants of whom she is so fond, but the end of the story left me cold and the book is dense and felt like it took forever to read.

For now, I'm giving this book a MAYBE.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Re-Gifters by Mike Carey

Dixie is a Korean teen who is talented at hapkido, but who lets herself get distracted by her crush on Adam, the other local hapkido star, right before the big national tournament. While it's nice to see a female protagonist who can literally kick butt, this graphic novel's pluses didn't rise above its predictability. NAY.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Broken Moon by Kim Antieau

Nadira lives in either Pakistan or India where the reality for young, poor people is very harsh. She has been scarred as revenge for something her brother was accused of but didn't do. She believes no one will ever love her because of the scar on her face. Her brother is kidnapped (or sold) to become a camel jockey in another land. Nadira dresses as a boy to find him and bring him home. Life for the camel jockeys is very hard and dangerous, but through her telling of the stories of Shahrazad, she is able to survive and find her brother and bring him home.
This story reminded me a lot of Sold by Patricia McCormick. It depicts the harshness but also the hope. I give it a YAY

The Neddiad by Daniel Pinkwater

This book, that takes place in the 1950's, is about a young boy named Neddie Wentworthstein. From Chicago to California, he finds himself in many "Wild West" type of adventures revolving around a little jade turtle that he receives from a shaman. I thought this was a good story anbd might be geared to the younger end of our audience. The style of this book reminded me of "Lizard Music" also by Pinkwater. I listened to the audio version of the book which was read by the author and he read so fast that it was confusing for me to follow along. The book was not exceptional by any means and I give it a NAY.

An Unlikely Friendship by Ann Rinaldi

Oh. Dear. God. I've never quit so early on reading a book for Thumbs Up. The writing style was so simpering and cloying that I couldn't picture any teen resisting the temptation to throw it across the room, let alone reading and enjoying it. A thousand times NAY.

Touching Snow by M. Sindy Felin

Fourteen-year-old Karina is the first of her family to be born in America instead of Haiti. Her family struggles to get by, and she and her siblings live in constant fear of their horribly abusive stepfather until they finally take matters into their own hands. This book was a fast read and easy to get into, but it felt arbitrarily set in the 1980s. (Really, are teens today going to get references to Menudo?) It felt like yet another of those books that are supposedly marketed to teens, but are really just nostalgia on behalf of the author and are really aimed toward other readers their age. Plus, the narrative style was very distracting -- Karina at time speaks directly to the reader, and it isn't until the very end that it becomes clear who that reader is. Poor editing. Definitely a NAY.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Cures for Heartbreak by Margo Rabb

The sequence in which I read this book (following my Nay votes) inclined my vote toward Yay, but now that I've read 101 Ways to Dance and Does My Head Look Big I This?, I don't know if Cures for Heartbreak can compete. Looking for other input before I go back and read this again.

I will rely on Booklist's review published on Amazon to do this justice (and a bit lazy/behind on my postings)

From Booklist
*Starred Review* "I was ashamed of my family for having such bad luck." In the same year, teenage Mia's mother dies of cancer and her father has a heart attack. In stand-alone chapters (versions of some have been published in magazines), Raab gives Mia a distinctive voice, leavening her heartbreak with surprising humor and dark absurdity. Rabb is an exceptionally gifted writer who draws subtle connections between abstract history and intimate lives, particularly in scenes contrasting the dry school coverage of the Holocaust with Mia's Jewish family's personal history--"the kind of history that seeps in slowly and colors everything, like a quiet, daily kind of war." In Mia, Rabb creates a remarkable character whose ordinary teen experiences--crushes, friendships, sexual fumblings, mortification over her family's behavior--seem all the more authentic set within the larger tragedies. With almost unbearable poignancy, Mia talks about how to grow up, survive loss and family history, and heal her heart: "If grief had a permanence, then didn't also love?" Readers will cherish this powerful debut. Gillian Engberg

Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah


Amal's experiences as a new girl in a snobby prep school (and relatively homogeneously white) in Australia apply to most anyone who has felt like an outsider. She is Australian-Palestinian-Muslim and decides to go "full time" with a hijab (head covering). Already on the social fringes at her school, her parents are concerned, but supportive of her decision. Amal misses her Muslim friends who are at another school, but fortunately she has two great pals at the prep school who share their own issues. Subjects include body-image, boys, zits, bullying, cliques, a grumpy neighbor and racist bus driver.

I think many teens will relate to Amal (although her spending money is probably the envy of many readers), and may also appreciate learning about differences and similarities among different religions including Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Abdel-Fattah has done a good job distributing the factual tidbits among the characters so they don't read like infomercials or preaching passages.

Amal is wonderfully outspoken, balanced with her inner turmoil, so her voice rings true. She loves her mother, but Amal can't let her think that she isn't ruining her life - and her mom gives it right back.

For those who remember the bombing of the nightclub in Bali in 2002, the
post 9/11 time frame is significant. Amal's responses to her friends, and classmates asking her to be a spokesperson for the Islamic world feel authentic -- and can be applied to any situation where someone is asked to play spokesperson for "all" feminists, blacks, lesbians, nerds, etc.

Definitely a good choice for any library - great for discussion. YAY

101 Ways to Dance by Kathy Stinson

Awesome book! Definitely a YAY.
Having said that, maybe not a must purchase for every library depending on your community (self-censorship rearing its head here). Sexual anticipation, results, hopes, experiments, and fantasies. I got teary during two of the short stories, laughed with some, and turned on by others. Some are wistful, some plain horny, but all seem honest forays into teen sexual identity, fears, expectations, explorations, and curiosity.

25 Jan - In light of other reads, I'll change my vote to NAY. Still think it is a good book.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Is it okay to post about books that are not in our group list? I hope so (but if not let me know and I'll try to rein it in!), because I absolutely loved The Off Season. It is a sequel to last year's Dairy Queen, but Murdock does a fine job of making this a stand alone. D.J., Brian, and all the Schwenks are back, following D.J.'s spirited decision to play football. The story starts with her trademark humor and insightfulness, then delves into some of the deeper issues of family, honor, and maturation. I love these characters! YAY!

The Falconer's Knot by Mary Hoffman

So I thought this was a decent story. At first it seemed like there were too many characters (as more and more are introduced in each chapter) but then you begin to see how they all intertwine. The story kept me interested - I wanted to know how it ended but I don't know if teens would "love" it and I feel like that is more of what we're looking for. So I'm leaning towards NAY.