Thursday, August 30, 2007

Busted by Phil Bildner

Four different stories are featured from Coldwater Creek High School, with the students' lives intersecting around a strong principal figure, Zig. The issues featured include drug use, bullying, sex, gambling, ya know...all the typical high school pursuits! I liked the different perspectives and how each story is written in a different style. This is a quick read, with lots of white space! Although I enjoyed it, I'm going to give it a NAY. I'm interested to read what others think!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In Search of Mockingbird by Loretta Ellsworth

Erin's mom died when she was young. On her 16th birthday, her dad gives her a copy of her mother's diary from which Erin learns they shared a love of To Kill a Mockingbird and writing. Erin runs away to find Harper Lee, thinking that will make her closer her mother. On this road trip to self discovery, she finds a couple of folks to help her on the way. The characters were a little far-fetched, but completely likeable. This was a quick read and Erin was sympathetic. I give it a tentative yay.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Glass by Ellen Hopkins (sequel to Crank)

I was waiting for this one to come in! This is a sequel to the popular Crank, a story about a teen girl's descent into meth addiction written in verse format. This is a quick read and takes place where the other title left off, with Kristina trying to raise her baby and fighting the urge to use again. Unfortunately, the fight doesn't last and she starts using again on page 6 (otherwise, no story, right? :) ) Anyone could read this title on its own and understand the story without having read the first title. The writing is of good quality; the story is entertaining; and I'm sure this title will be popular with teens as well. Do I think this is worthy of the Thumbs Up! award? Probably not; but if it makes the top 20 I'm sure you'll see some teen votes for it. I give it a (reluctant) NAY.

Nightrise by Anthony Horowitz

The Gatekeepers series has become more interesting with the last book, but there is no way this book could stand alone. Readers will be completely lost in this title if they haven't read the first two. For Thumbs Up, I give it a nay.

Monday, August 20, 2007

21 Proms -David Levithan & Daniel Ehrenhaft, editors

A collection of short stories that deal with prom night written by popular Young Adult authors. I found this to be a quick and enjoyable read that is sure to satisfy those who desire well-written stories. This collection has something for every reader. All of the stories are fast paced, cleverly written and feature twists and turns. This one is a YAY for me.

Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins

This quick read from A. M. Jenkins moves at a good pace and tackles some "deeper" subjects while maintaining a light tone. Kiriel is a self-described fallen angel whose job in the afterlife (you know, the hot one!) is tormenting the damned. He thinks it's a depressing job and wants to make a difference in the real world and so he decides to hijack the body of teen slacker Shaun. While in Shaun's body, Kiriel bolsters Shaun's relationship with his brother and mother, and establishes a romantic relationship with a girl who has a crush on Shaun. The descriptions of the physical sensations Kiriel experiences as Shaun are sensual and lush--running the gamut from the touch of a light breeze on his face to the sensation of making out with Lane. While Kiriel sought to teach lessons, he actually learns lessons about himself as he interacts with his friends, his family, and the kids at school.
I did enjoy the book and I think it will appeal to a large audience. There are explicit descriptions of, you know, some sensual acts, so it might not be appropriate for the younger crowd. I'd like to reserve judgment on this one until someone else reads it, so in the meantime, I'll give it a MAYBE.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Into the Woods by Lyn Gardner

Into the woods by Lyn Gardner is a cute amalgamation of a bunch of different Grimms Fairy Tales, which has been done quite a lot lately, and frankly I’m a bit bored by it. You can see the dangers coming a mile away, and I wasn’t terribly impressed by the twists, the romantic side-story, or the writing in general. It’s a story that’s just too young for teens, though if you have middle schoolers who love stuff like the Sisters Grimm, this might be good. NAY

On the Rocks by David Aretha

This was a very informative book about alcohol abuse among teens and young adults (by that I mean thos in college). The lay-out was great with graphics and statistics through out that made it quick and easy to read. While I think it would be beneficial for many to read, I think there are other books that I have read for Thumbs Up that were much better. NAY

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Chasing Tail Lights by Patrick Jones

I have to say that I'm disappointed about this title. I really wanted to like it! I was a little confused throughout (it took me 2 chapters to figure out the race of the main character) but it did get a little better towards the end. I'm sorry, Patrick, you're great, but this book could be so much better! I give it a NAY.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Brothers, Boyfriends and Other Criminal Minds by April Lurie

Brothers, Boyfriends & Other Criminal Minds takes place on a street in 1977 Brooklyn where three mobsters live. April gets caught up in trouble when her brother starts seeing a mob boss' daughter and April begins helping out a guy on her street. There are a lot of characters here and Laurie allows many of them to develop including some of April's friends and the boys that eventually come into the picture. This was a pretty good book, though some of the writing was choppy for my taste. I'm not certain whether this is award worthy but the historical setting, somewhat complex plot and realistic characters helped me enjoy it. I give it a MAYBE for now.

The Red Shoe by Ursula Dubosarsky

The Red Shoe takes place in Australia and chronicles the real life story of a Russian defector hiding duing the Cold War. The story is told through three sisters, but mostly through Matilda who wants to be a spy when she grows up. I think the author has a neat writing style, though much of the story has little to do with the plot. This is a solid tale, though I don't think it has much appeal for teens with its young characters and somewhat obscure subject. I give it a NAY.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Now this is what I'm talking about! Wicked Lovely is an incredible debut that combines contemporary themes and historical fantasy. Aislinn has always been able to see faeries, they have pervaded her life with their hedonistic and often terrifying ways. Now she has been targeted as the new Summer Queen by Keenan. Keenan is the gorgeous Summer King who has been searching for 900 years for his co-ruler. What nobody bargains for is Aislinn's great strength, personal resolve to maintain her mortal life, and her love of a mortal. Takes the old girl-hopelessly-falls-for-immortal-and-needs-rescuing and turns it on its head!

Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham

Girl goes on vacation. Girl goes swimming. Girl attacked by shark. Girl must have arm amputated due to shark bite. Girl is an artist. Will she be an artist again? Girl recovers.
This story was ripped from the headlines and is told in prose which makes it a super fast read. Shark girl is likeable and her emotions and feelings seem real enough. Although the storyline is unique, the novel isn't very attention grabbing and is quite predictable. I think the cover and storyline will appeal to teens, but once they begin reading I think they will give up pretty easily. I give it a nay.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Navigator by Eoin McNamee

This time the cover provides a glimpse of the story one wouldn't expect once you realize who/what is pictured (*reference to my last posting re: Rover where I thought the cover was a detriment to the book's appeal).

The Navigator is reminiscent of The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman (His Dark Materials) where the hero learns along the way what the enemy is, and what his role is in the war. Owen also shoulders an unusual care taking role of a parent. Time is stretched, manipulated and turned backward, and power is wielded in different forms like ice and magnetic force. Owen is an outcast in "normal" life as well as in the Workhouse which may be a catalyst to his keen observation of others, mistrust and searching for truth in himself and his past. A sci-fi, fantasy epic.

Rover by Jackie French

I admit that the cover totally put me off. It looks like a boring historical fiction story about a young girl and her dog. The cover doesn't do justice to the spunk, determination, forthrightness, or curiosity of Hekja - her iceberg-smelling dog (Rover) is pretty great too. Readers will experience some of the humiliation and riling against conquest that a slave might feel. The historical details feel accurate (although I have little actual knowledge to judge this by beyond a vague recollection of Viking history and a visit to Norway's exhibit at Epcot). Freydis is a complex character, and the author references two sources from which she drew to create the fictionalized version of this unusual female - a Viking leader. The contact among different tribes and people lends insight to how some events might have transpired during exploration and conquests. I give it a surprised YAY.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Billie Standish Was Here by Nancy Crocker

Okay I can't find the cover even though its on my desktop, so try to visualize feet.

Billie's an ugly, ignorant 11 year old with poor, mildly abusive parents, who has the misfortune of meeting a nice old lady and getting raped by her ne're-do-well son.

Lucky for Billie, the old lady's packin', and that night her son meets his maker with a gut full of hot lead. This lady not only takes out her progeny, she also takes little Billie under her wing and soon the girl isn't quite so ugly or hopeless, and her mom quits smacking her around. A boy even shows up in the picture. Of course, guardian angels like Miss Lydia can't stick around forever..

I liked the book, though it was some what predicable and tidy.. I'm just not sure if teens are going to be interested in a reading a story about a farm girl in 1964 dealing with rape on top of the usual "ugly, poor and without social prospects" issues. NAY

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers

An enjoyable look into the Harlem Renaissance through the eyes of 16-year-old Mark Purvis, who manages to meet important figures of the time such as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, W. E. B. DuBois, etc. There is suspense, drama, and comedy in this story written by acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers. I found this to be a good book and would recommend it to youth in grades 5-9. I would also recommend this book to teachers to supplement any teachings on the Harlem Renaissance. In addition to being a good history lesson, an added bonus is the inclusion of pictures and bios of the famous people and events mentioned. I would have to vote MAYBE for this title only because I'm not sure if it is too "young" for teens. I would love to hear what others think.

Blaze of Silver by K.M. Grant

Blaze of Silver is third in the Granville Trilogy by K.M. Grant.
It has the feel of an epic movie with sweeping views of forest, desert, sea, knights, nuns and horses. It is set during the Crusades, but I can't attest to how well it would stand up to a historical fiction label.

While there are interesting elements, fealty/loyalty, jealousy, unrequited love, relationships across barriers and good character sketches, I don't feel it stands on its own for Thumbs Up.


Beauty Shop for Rent...Fully Equipped, Inquire Within by Laura Bowers

This was a simply delightful read. Abby Garner is fifteen and determined to be a millionaire by age 35. She is being raised by her great grandmother after being abandoned by her mother and her grandmother committed suicide. Her great grandmother runs an old fashioned beauty parlor that is for rent. Gena a sophisticated 35 year old rents the space and turns it into a day spa. Secondary characters include Great Granny's posse of the "Widows," her elderly friends who are hilarious, quirky, and caring. Character development is superb and develops at a believable pace and the ending is quite satisfying.
Although not appealing for boys, I give this one a HUGE YAY based on storyline and criteria for the award. Hope ya'll like it too!

Monday, August 6, 2007

How it Happened in Peach Hill by Marthe Jocelyn

I thought this was an okay story - I didn't love nor hate it... NAY for me.

I'm simplifying here but here's my nuts & bolts summary.... The main character is a teenage girl - her mother is a clairvoyant (really a con-artist). The girl (Annie?) struggles between what her mother wants (for annie to assist with her cons) and what she wants for herself (to go to school and learn).

Enter Three Witches by Caroline Cooney

The story of Macbeth told from the point of view of Lady Mary, a ward of Lady Macbeth. Lady Mary happens to be in all the right places to view the events unfolding and she also has a strong personality of her own. The settings become more vivid with Cooney's descriptions and motivations are clear. Reading it made me want to go back and reread the original. Give it to fans of Ophelia. I give it a YAY.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Genesis Alpha by Rune Michaels

This is one of the novels I think is "How did this get published." It starts out okay, Josh and Max are brothers, Josh is known as a designer baby because he was born to sae his older brother's life because they needed his DNA. They both play the online game Genesis Alpha. Then Max is accused of murder, is he guilty or not? It sounds like a good read, but it isn't. There is a twist about 3/4 of the way through that is so utterly stupid. If you could see me, I would be naying like a goat. A huge NAY for me. Waste of time.


Friday, August 3, 2007

When the Curtain Rises by Rachel Dunstan Muller

This book was DREADFUL! Not only was the story hackneyed and improbable, the characters stiff and lifeless, and the conclusion predictable and sappy; it is certainly a middle grades book.
Spoiler Synopsis: Chloe doesn't remember that she has two great aunts who adore her, but after a failure at a piano recital, she goes to stay with them for the summer. She then finds out that her great grandfather was a magician who disappeared because of a mysterious rosewood box. Chloe and her new best friend, Nyssa, (of course they are friends, they are thrown together because of a talent show and Nyssa wants to be a magician and they like to ride bikes) find the mystery box and discover that it grants wishes. (Chloe's wishes are for all the ice cream she can eat and a bike just like Nyssa's. What teenager wouldn't!) Then they come to the snap decision that the box is evil, so into the fire it goes. But, Chloe has now gained the confidence she needs to perform in the talent show and win!!! Well, only second place, but everyone knows she is the true winner in life. Sigh. Urgh!
A Thousand NAYS.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports by James Patterson

This is the third book in a series about Max and her flock, a group of kids genetically engineered to be half human, half bird. It was a bit tough to follow without having read the first two, as it's apparent that lots of convoluted stuff has happened to them as they get out of the lab where they were "born" and experimented on, and it's unclear what's been real and what's been psychological experiments to see how they react to pressure. A NAY because of that and the fact that it's not great literature; however, Max is a funny, snarky narrator and the action is fast and furious. I would absolutely recommend the series to action/adventure buffs.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Invisible by Mats Wahl

Yay (conditional, so minus?)
This will appeal to the CSI crowd and those who enjoyed Sixth Sense. It as good as Sixth Sense, but it moves along. I liked the inspector and the twist at the end. Miranda Rights, interviewing a minor without a parent present, and police physicality restrictions might get in the way if it were set in the United States.

Good premise and the shifting perspective was compelling.

Description below (sorry for being lazy and not writing them myself)

Barnes and Noble:
One ordinary Monday morning in May, Hilmer Eriksson walks into his high school classroom and discovers that he has become invisible. No one can see him, no one can hear him. In fact, a police detective named Harald Fors arrives at school that very morning to investigate Hilmer’s disappearance. The boy has no idea what’s going on, but he’s frightened, and he’s starting to forget things – including what happened to him a few nights earlier. Detective Fors suspects foul play, and those suspicions lead him – trailed by the ghostlike presence of Hilmer – to a group of skinheads. These unpopular, disaffected kids are very vocal about their Nazi sympathies. But how does Hilmer’s life intersect with theirs? As Fors scours the village and interviews area residents for clues, he begins to piece together the puzzle of Hilmer’s disappearance. Meanwhile Hilmer waits, silently, to discover what has happened to him.

Dragon's Keep by Janet Lee Carey

The cover is cool. My issues with agency are getting in the way of liking this book. The mom (Queen) lives vicariously through her daughter (Princess Rosalind), smothering and restricting her to the point of driving me crazy. At the end when Rosalind could have done something spectacular, she is rescued by the long lost prince (of course). When she realizes the prophecy, she does it quite by accident. The elements were there to be interesting, but it doesn't come off. NAY

From Barnes and Noble:
Far away on Wilde Island, Princess Rosalind is born with a dragon claw where her ring finger should be. To hide the secret, the Queen forces her to wear gloves at all times until a cure can be found, so Rosalind can fulfill the prophecy to restore the family to their rightful throne.

But Rosalind’s flaw cannot be separated from her fate. When she is carried off by the dragon, everything she thought she knew falls apart. The dragon sees beauty in her talon where her mother saw only shame, and Rosalind finally understands what her mother has truly denied her.

Up Close: Johnny Cash by Anne E. Neimark

NAY - Parts of the books were interesting, especially Johnny Cash's youth. The escalation to fame focused a lot on the little yellow pills he was addicted to. I would have liked to know more about the context he was operating in, who he was friends with, where he played. Why was the jail concert so influential? What other interactions impacted Cash's life?

For a reader who likes music and doesn't want to read a biography, but has to, this is a likely suggestion. It reads easily, but I didn't feel like I got to know the man very well.

Breakup Bible by Melissa Kantor

Fun read, and would offer to teens who like Meg Cabot. The probing of race issues was interesting, inclusion of a loving gay couple appreciated, resolution at the end was satisfying. It was fine, but not Thumbs Up Award caliber. Nay

Publishers Weekly

Jen is crushed when her boyfriend tells her "it would be better if we were just friends." Making matters worse, she catches him kissing another girl from the school paper, where she also works. Jen cannot sleep, cries constantly and thinks she "could actually die of heartache." Even with supportive friends and family-and opportunities to advance her journalism career-it takes time to move on. Kantor (Confessions of a Not It Girl) successfully juggles several storylines, including Jen's work on a controversial article about race relations at school, her mother's attempt at romance after years on the sidelines and even a fun first date for Jen with a boy who bravely takes her salsa dancing. These threads make Jen's world seem very real and reflect her growing sense of self. Readers may not know what to make of the actual self-help book Jen's grandmother buys her (called The Breakup Bible); full of clichés (such as "A fabulous, foxy lady such as yourself knows when it's time to say good riddance to bad rubbish!), the cheesy book seems to help Jen at times, but ultimately ends up in the trash. Jen goes through much of the book thinking "I'm so sad, I'm so sad, I'm so sad," which may overwhelm readers, but in the end, they will likely be convinced both of Jen's readiness to move on and of her ability to see the good and the bad in her first romance. Ages 12-up. (May)

What Happened by Peter Johnson

The narrator tells a story of a hit and run accident intertwined with his own fantasy versions of happy endings, possibilities and alternative worlds to his life. His mother died, his father left, and he's on meds. The unnamed narrator is emerging into himself as the story ends. A good story, but a nay.