Saturday, December 29, 2007

Before I Die by Jenny Downham

This teen novel is described as joyous and uplifting. Instead, I would call it poignant or bittersweet.

Tessa, age 16 has been living with leukemia for the past four years. Now, she has run out of treatment choices save doubtful experimental procedures. She chooses not to undergo still more treatment, more suffering and instead she lives what time she has left to the fullest. She makes a list of things she wants to do before she dies. The list grows and shrinks as her desires change and her illness progresses. Top of her list are have sex, do something illegal, try (illegal) drugs, drive. Between bouts of rage in which she tries to destroy any sign that she ever lived, destroying pictures, her mementos and even tossing a TV through a window and bouts of depression that keeps her in bed for days at a time, Tessa sets out to accomplish each thing on her list. Her friend Zoey, and sometimes father and brother Cal each support her efforts even as she shoves them away - afraid to have feelings for them and then pulls them back - forgetting that they too have needs. Her mother, divorced from her father and not really a part of her life for many years even comes around to support Tessa. And, lonely back door neighbor Adam who helps her burn her possessions during one of her rages, perhaps falls in love with her, gives her a totally unexpected experience if sex with love, not just the mechanical process she had gone through to fulfill her wish list. Tessa seems to think she is entitled to shoplift, take her father's car joy riding and do any manner of wild things because she is ill. I question the message that might give to others - though they probably don't need a story to give them ideas such as these. Other books about dying teens seem to be carefully crafted to go through the classic stages of grief. This story seems more real to me even though the emotions take a back seat to Tessa's efforts to live fully before she dies.
JDW 12/29/07

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Breathe My Name by R.A. Nelson

This was one of those books that's left me feeling neither here nor there. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't spectacular. Something was missing but I can't quite put my finger on it. The novel is about 18-year-old Frances, or Francine depending on which family you're talking about. Frances is a girl with a great life. She's got loving parents, annoying brothers, a great best friend and a crazy but loving new boyfriend. Overall she's got a life people would be happy to have, except for the secret she holds. Suddenly a lawyer shows up at her door, bringing Francine and her other mother back into Frances' life. Eleven years ago Francine's mother killed three of her four daughters. She was in the process of killing Francine when a stranger came and saved the day. Shortly after that happened, Francince was adopted and became Frances. Now the lawyer shows up with a letter from the murderous mother, claiming that they need to finish what they started. (Her mother was found not guilty by reason of insanity but had recently been making a strong recovery). Frances needs to see her mother, even though she knows her new parents would forbid it. In order to get around this, she and her boyfriend sneak off under the cover of a weekend school trip. They find characters from Frances' past and eventually discover her long-lost mother.

Like I said earlier, this book didn't make a strong impression one way or the other. The only thing that bothered me was that it took so long to find out what actually happened eleven years ago. By reading the front flap I knew what happened, but it took about 100 pages to actually say. Even then, it wasn't any real deep details. The novel had a habit of slipping between past and present, showing Frances' life in "Fireless" with her mother. It did a great job of showing her mother's psychosis but wasn't that impressive. It sort of reminded me of the Ya-Ya sisterhood and how the mother could be wild and crazy, the children's best friend, but at the same time, deeply troubled. The mother was a nicely constructed character.

This book wasn't bad but I don't feel as though I should run around singing it's praises. Give it a shot if the story interests you. That's all one can say.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Go Figure by Jo Edwards

I had read Jo Edwards' previous book Love Undercover (See February 8) and found similar flaws in her second book, Go Figure. This novel centers on Ryan Burke, a senior with weight issues. It's her senior year and she's still fat, but she's not going to let that hold her back. She's enrolled in a photography class and her best friend Kimberlee is destined to find her a guy. Her previous boyfriend Noah is a hit musician, recently appearing on the cover of Rolling Stones. The bad thing about that, though, is that Ryan only seems to be known as Noah's old girlfriend. While Ryan tries to figure things out in her life, she stressed over the fact that her bff (Best Fat Friend) Chelsea hasn't been the best email buddy. Things start falling apart when she hears from Noah that he's written a song about her (and some other people as he said) only to learn that it's not the most flattering song. And then Chelsea, who'd been in California, returns home 80 pounds lighter. Suddenly Chelsea's popular and Ryan is more lost than ever.

I feel as though the summary of the novel is confusing and lackluster, but yet the story itself was lacking something in terms of plot. It took about 50 pages for the novel to actually pick up a storyline and even then, it wasn't all that exciting. There seemed to be too much internal monologue and background. Plus the reveal of Chelsea was obvious, especially when the girl said she really wasn't comfortable talking about weight anymore. And speaking of weight, the emphasis that Ryan placed on it was annoying. I understand having weight issues but there's a difference between having weight issues and obsessing. Sure Ryan's getting psychiatric help, but it's not doing her any good. And for a girl with so many problems regarding her size, she's got it pretty good. She's got great friends, guys willing to make out with her, and a boyfriend who turned into a rock star. Call me a little cynical, but that's just a little too good to be true. I really didn't find Ryan believable. In fact, I found her annoying. If she's so miserable about her weight, she should have done more to fix it. Sure she said she worked out, but not enough to make a difference and there wasn't really much of a mention of diet. I really just wanted to tell her to shut up and deal or do something about it. Now don't get me started on the ending. In Jo Edwards' first novel, I found the ending a little too cheesy. The same thing happens with this novel. It was just a little too picture perfect. Real life isn't happily ever after but yet this novel made it feel that way and I really didn't feel as though Ryan made any resolution to her main conflict - her weight.

I had high hopes for this novel. At first I thought it might be a little bit of "big girl empowerment," but I didn't see that happening, especially when the whole novel seemed just a little too fictional. I can see showing having a character with weight issues, but to make that the bane of her existence is a little too much to swallow, especially when she fails to come grips with it. This novel was just a little too much cheese for my liking.

General Winston's Daughter By:Sharon Shim

This novel is intriguing to me, and is written so well that it captures any teen's imagination. I was so into the novel it seemed true to me. But this story is totally imagined, and got my attention from the beginning of the book.

The personality of the main character throughout the novel was Averie who is the daughter of General Winston . Averie grew up in a big estate with servants. She is a teen who at first falls in love with a Colonel, but then is romantically crazy about Lt. Du Kai, who in reality Averie has to keep hush hush. Averie already wears on her finger an engagement ring from the Colonel. Towards the end of the book, she gives back the ring to the Colonel, who had gotten injured in a battle . As you might presume, everyone was surprized including the Colonel. Averie finds that her Father the General, was killed in battle in a fictitious town called Chiarrin. The city was burned completely, and the General became ashes.

The daughter Averie decided to bury what remained, of her Father next to her Mother in the small burial ground of the Weymireestate.

The end of the novel was a bit of a surprize to me being that Averie is closing parts of the estate to move to a foreign city by herself. She will be living in the town where the Lt. DuKai lives tho she loves a lot.

Winter's Bone By: Daniel Woodrell

This novel is American folk story presenting Ree Dolly as your folk hero. "Winter's Bone" is a timeless story that expresses through prose, the gumption of one little woman's feisty personality.

At the beginning of the novel, say the first 70 pages I personally was not interested in the plot. As the time went by, I was hooked on this novel, and fascinated with the different plot of the story. Especially anything to do with Ree Dolly. I especially got a kick they way they searched for the where abouts of their Father. Family members knew his body fell, or was thrown in a pond that had been frozen, and his legs had a cement block attached to them. This would sink the body deep.

The novel was alright, but I personally have enjoyed better books.

LRD 12/17/07

Hacking Harvard - Wasserman

Harvard is one of the most pristine Ivy League schools to get into. A whole bunch of people apply and only a few get into Harvard. Schwarz, who already goes to Harvard, and his friends Eric and Max plan one day to do the unthinkable, hack into the Harvard database and get a jock with a C average into Harvard. They do the plan in stages, the first being to pick the jock. They pick Clay Porter, who at first doesn't want to join, but when money becomes involved joins right away. The next step is to get a perfect SAT score. Clay goes and takes the SAT's, with a camera on him and Schwarz, Eric, and Max are outside the room giving him the answers. Then about a month later they attend a Harvard football game where they scope out the veteran admissions officer having an affair with a dean from Harvard. The next step is filling out the application which includes volunteer hours, grades, an exceptional artistic talent, and a personal statement. The application is submitted and now all they have to do is wait for the interview, which won't be till February. The interview comes around and Schwarz and company have it all set up with Clay fitted with a microphone and speaker. Things start to go awry when there is interference between Schwarz and Clay, but when things get cleared up they hear that Clay is doing fine on his own. Then comes the day where the admissions committe picks who's accepted/wait list/denyed into Harvard.

I could see this book turned into a movie. It would be interesting to see this played out on the big screen. I think it would be as enjoyable in the theater as it was reading the book.
T.B. 12/17/07

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Arnold, also known as junior is a Spokane Indian with medical issues, lots of smarts, a talent for shooting baskets, living on a reservation with a mediocre school, dreams of a better future.

In pursuing his dreams, Arnold chooses to attend white school 22 miles away. He is rejected both at home where other Indians call him white and at school where kids find all kinds of names to call him. The rejection includes losing his one best friend who he misses terribly. He sometimes has to walk the distance from school as his parents cannot always afford gas money and his father drinks. But, he finds support both from his dysfunctional family and from some of the kids at the white school. Along the way he experiences the deaths of several people important to him. Punches a white bully in the face and much to his surprise gains the kid's respect, Faces his former best friend in basketball, twice, as a member of the white school team, shares with readers the rampant alcohol abuse on reservations and how it hurts the Indians and keeps sight of his dreams against the odds. Another book, Tequila Worm by Canales looks at a Latina girl with dreams of a better future and the support of her family as she grows up and away from them, same theme, different cultures, wonderful stories.
jdw 12/10/07

Friday, December 07, 2007

Frannie in Pieces by Delia Ephron

Recently there have been several books published in which a teen could enter a piece of art created by someone of importance to them. By doing so they learn to embrace life in spite of their sadness and to live/look with heir hearts. Frannie's father dies unexpectedly and leaves all his possessions to her. He was an artist and divorced from her mother. Among his many junk art objects is a wooden box filled with 1000 handmade puzzle pieces. The box has Frannie's name on it. It becomes her summer goal to finish this puzzle and understand the message it contains. It is her mother's goal to have her be a camp counselor for the summer. At camp she is the art counselor and there are some genuinely funny moments as she describes the other counselors and relates to her very unique, not always charming campers. Frannie works long on the puzzle, sometimes finding herself wandering in the puzzle itself, learning where it is and finally meeting her dead father who helps her understand his life, death and divorce. Very Charming, sad/happy and perhaps Frannie has fallen in love - or not.
JDW 12/7/07

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Beastly by Alex Flinn

This story is a modern day version of Beauty and the Beast. The main character is Kyle Kingsbury - the king of the school. He's popular, pretty and perfect - except for his personality. Kendra decides he needs a bit of an attitude adjustment after he asks her to the homecoming dance only to embarrass her by showing up with a beautiful girl. Kendra, a witch, casts a spell on Kyle, turning him into a beast. She showed him kindness, though, because that day he showed kindness to someone else by giving a plain girl a rose (granted he just gave her the rose because his date didn't want it, but kindness is kindness despite motivation). Instead of killing Kyle or permanently making him a beast, he has two years to find true love and to receive a kiss. Kyle's father, a TV personality, tries his hardest to find a cure for his son, but when everything fails, he buys him a mansion and leaves him there with the housekeeper Magda. Due to threats on Kyle's part, he soon receives a blind tutor named Will to live with him. In the months alone, Kyle develops an interest in books and a love of roses. He builds a greenhouse and comes to accept his lonely life as a beast. One night, though, a druggie breaks into his greenhouse and in order to save his own life, the man offers his daughter for his freedom. Kyle, seeing the opportunity to find love in the girl, takes him up on the offer. Soon Lindy comes to live with him. Coincidentally, Lindy was the plain girl he gave the rose to. As the story of Beauty and the Beast goes, they develop a friendship through their joint studies and love of roses which might turn into more. But of course there needs to be more conflict in which the Kyle lets her leave and he sees his chances of receiving true love's kiss slip away. Will they live happily ever after? What do you think?

I really liked the modern day twist on this classic story. The story did a great job setting up the importance of looks in the most casual and typical of settings. Homecoming was coming up and it opened up the debate of the fact that the only reason people were nominated was because of their looks. Kyle's dad, a TV personality, was the perfect fit for the role because he was in a position where without looks and image, nothing else matters. The novel really showed how the topic is so common today. I also liked how this novel treated Lindy's situation. If she came from a loving household, it'd be harder to accept her being "kidnapped" by the beast. In this story, though, there's a lot of emphasis on how she's better off with him. Here it's not just the beast's needs being met, but also hers. Kyle, as a beast, was a very like-able character. On a interesting note, the novel has sections where Kyle is chatting online to other people who have been transformed. It's just a neat like add-in, especially to see other stories like the Little Mermaid - whose ending bothered me a little bit, but I won't go into detail about that.

That's what I liked. One thing that I didn't find so believable was Kyle/Beast as only a teenager. Maybe I'm too used to the characters being older, but there were scenes where he seemed too old, too insightful to be just 16. It worked at the beginning, but as the story progressed and he was on his own it became less believable. It didn't detract too much from the story, it was just hard to keep in mind that he was still a teenager. That's really my only complaint. It was a really enjoyable story. It was nice to see the characters transform, both physically and emotionally. Fans of classic fairy tales should definitely pick this one up. Even if Beauty and the Beast isn't your favorite story, this one is worthwhile.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Postcards to Father Abraham by Lewis

16-year-old Meghan seems to have found her niche in life. She is a runner and a very good one.
Since life hasn't been exactly kind to her, finding a way to feel comfortable with herself was very important. Her banker father who just doesn't get it sends her off to a private school where her good grades and good running skills could lead to a college scholarship. She is a misfit, becomes friends with another misfit and gets tossed out. At the same time she discovered an injury to her leg that does not heal. This leads to a diagnosis of cancer and the removal of one leg. In trying to adapt to one more bad event in her life, she rights postcards to her hero Abraham Lincoln sharing her pain even as she wonders what his pain was like. There is a subplot about a favorite sibling, Killian who served in the Vietnam War, compared to the Civil War, and came home with post traumatic stress disorders. Unable to tolerate closed in places for long he wanders around all day long and sleeps outside at night. Meghan is very brave and resilient, however scared she is and we know she will be alright no matter what life hands her. This one could make you cry, its just so unfair.
jdw 12/07

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

This book has gotten reviews that have been all over the spectrum from great to bad. There is a lot going on in this book, some of it is left unfinished and has been a distraction from the main story line for some readers. But, the main story moves very quickly and kept my attention. I never really paid much attention to the other smaller plots. Five year's ago, Josh was in an intimate relationship with a young teacher. When it was discovered, Josh's life basically went on hold and the teacher got a five year prison term. With her release, and his impending graduation from high school. Josh seems to want to move on finally. Things start when he accidentally crosses paths with Rachel, a girl he once was friends with until an ugly incident at her birthday party. Surprisingly, she had forgiven him long ago and wants to be friends again. Rachel seems too good to be true but I know that some people try to rescue every abused, stray animal that comes their way and people too. Josh takes a long time to commit and has many missteps along the way that include probably losing his friend Zik, the only friend for the past five years. He lets go of baseball where he was a star player in favor of a college math major. He decides on his future. We get an inside look at the damage done by the relationship and the beginnings of healing, this is the part that grabs and holds readers' attention till the end.

Monday, November 26, 2007


This novel takes a suicide note to a whole different level. Instead of saying "Sorry, I just couldn't live anymore," this novel explains the events that led up to a young girl's final decision to kill herself.

In the days before Hannah Baker takes a fatal overdose of pills, she records her thirteen reasons for her decision on a series of tapes. Her reasons revolve around people who have entered her life and left a mark on her existences, most of them negative. Each person mentioned on the tapes will receive them, one person at a time. When your turn is finished, you pass them on to the next person mentioned. This novel follows one of the people she mentions, Clay Jensen, listening to the tape and wondering what he'd done to cause her to want to kill herself. Clay had a special connection with Hannah - he had a huge crush on her but was too afraid to make something of it. They had one meaningful experience where he thought things might have worked in his favor, only he learned from the tapes that Hannah was too far gone for such a thing to happen. The events leading up to their time together start from her first kiss and a rumor surrounding it and then "snowball" (as she says). There's one betrayal after another and moments in this poor girls life that really show the rotten card she was dealt. In the end, though, the knowledge of her horrible experience are meaningless because nothing can be done to change the past. The only good the comes from these tapes is knowing the affect "you" had on the girl and hopefully changing your ways.

This novel was extremely powerful. People don't think that a little rumor (It wasn't just a kiss. She let me feel her up.) will have that big of an affect on another person. Or to make a Who's Hot/Who's Not would have any pull in the actions of others. But if the rumor didn't happen, then the list wouldn't have come out and she wouldn't have lost her friend and the peeping Tom probably wouldn't have looked in her window and so on and so forth. The scary but true thing is that so many teens don't see the consequence of their actions. Something teeny tiny to them might mean the world to another person. One story completely broke my heart where someone did something as minor as taking away anonymous notes of encouragement meant for Hannah. But when the girl is fighting to make it through each day, those notes could make or break a her day. The events that Hannah went through were unbelievable, and they weren't entirely worst case scenario situations. She wasn't raped. She didn't have anyone in her life killed. She wasn't on drug. She was just a girl who drew the short straw in world of high school. To hear it all in her own words the days before to end couldn't be more impacting.

I also really liked how the novel followed Clay - the boy who loved her. If it had been any other person she mentioned, it wouldn't have been as impacting because none of the other people cared about her. More than likely, none of the others wondered what they could have done differently to keep her there on earth. More than likely, none of them even missed her. But Clay did and to see his reaction to her words, to see how they affected him, showed the true magnitude of her story.

This was a wonderful novel. The author did a spectacular job portraying the young girl's pain while still sending out strong messages. Words have consequences. Actions have reactions. And sometimes, when a person says "Leave me alone," they don't mean it at all. Don't wait until it's too late to tell someone how you feel or ask them if they want to talk. Sometimes all it takes is one person to care.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Jail Bait by Leslea Newman

For those who don't know jail bait is an under aged kid in a relationship with an adult. If the kid turns on the adult then the adult goes to jail. Andi is fat, lonely and has her own tormentor at school. She avoids the bus and walks home for school instead. She stops along the road each day and talks to and feeds a cow she calls Bessie. A guy in a beat up Volkswagen sees her there and eventually makes contact. A relationship developes. There are two buts. First he holds her hostage, to his wishes because he has stolen her mother's wedding ring and has promised to give it back on her 17th birthday. Second, at the outset he is careful of her and proceeds slowly but this changes and the relationship is all about his needs. Andi doesn't really care for this. He seems better than home or school to her though and a promise to run away to the south is enticing. Andi's move to maturity happens all at once in the last few pages of the book and seems too fast. A side story about the relationship between her brother and herself and her brother's problems fizzles out. Still, a young girl falling for an older man is a timeless story and its told mostly quite well.
jdw 11/21/07

Monday, November 19, 2007

Red Glass By Laura Resau

I appreciate this novel very much, and the content portrayed throoughout this story. It seems very real, and true takin g place in Cenral America, the land I grew up in.

This story probably took place in the lives of many indigenous people. Our story has main characters Dika, Pablo, Mr. Lorenzo, Angel, and Sophie. By the spelling of Dika, you might guess she is a Bosnian refugee in the United States. Pablo was a young orphan who actually saw his parents killed in front of him. This occured in his village. Sophie was called to the Hospital, since Pablo had a business card of Sophie's Stepfather. Pablo was dehydrated, and was being treated in the Hospital. Pablo (6 yrs old) was crossing the border from Mexico to Arizona with 7 other Mexicans. When immigrants come from the South into United States they have a guide called "coyote" Pablo was the only survivor in the grooup.

Throughout the novel you find out that many people are superstituous amongst the Mayan society or more specific the Mexican people. Sophie travels on a local bus by herself that almost turns into a nightmare. She finds herself in many adventures that luckily work out. She falls heads over heals with Angel, which does not surprise me.

Mr. Lorenzo and Dika were lovers, and end up getting married towards the end of the novel.

This novel is super interesting with many eventstaking place. You must keep track of what is going on or the reader will be lost. The book is a great read.

LRD 11/19/07

The Confessional By: J.L. Powers

This is a story of a teen murder at an all boys Catholic School; in the city of El Paso, Texas. The story shows us the lives of a diverse group of teens who were friends. By diverse teens, I mean different status in society, and outlook in life. The teens in this novel have pecularities that other teens would not dare try. Some are duggies, and even selling drugs. These teens throughout the novel in the end after one teen, their friend died by the name of Mac. The group of boys towards the end of the story began asking questions important ones too.
For example, What would I do if I knew I was gonna die soon ?

This novel brings up a lot of ifs in life. It also makes everyone who reads the book to think about your life. It's a great novel, and captures life clearly. The novel is worthwhile to read.

LRD 11/19/07

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wildwood Dancing by Marilllier

Three cousins, the youngest just eight-years-old play on a lake in forest Draculi not knowing they are watched over by witch Draguta and make silent wishes for their future. Draguta grants these wishes and their lives are changed forever. Every full moon five pretty girls pass through a portal in their bedroom into the realm of elves and dance the night away. A boy turns into a frog and the frog turns into a man. A jealous younger brother becomes a domineering, angry, manipulative land owner.True love is found and lost. Nine years later one of the three revisits the lake and calls on Draguta for help. The help is not at all what she hoped for but is never the less what she asked for and the story plays itself out to its finale in this fantasy intertwined with bits of fairy tale magic. Wonderful.
jdw 11/17/07

Friday, November 16, 2007

Right Behind You by Gail Giles

Kip McFarland burned a kid alive when he was 9 years old and living in Alaska. The newspapers were all over Kip buring a kid. He was sent to a juvenile detention center for violent offenders in Anchorage where he spent the next four years. During that time his dad found a new girlfriend and married her. When Kip was released him, his father, and Carrie all move to Whitestone, Indiana. Kip gets a new name, Wade, and starts high school there. At first he just tries to fit in and does make a few friends. As freshman year closes and sophomore year begins he's asked to be on the swim team and he gets on it. Everything is going well for Wade, until one night during his junior year. Wade is out with his friends on the beach drinking when he gets into a fight with Brandon and he tells them everything about his childhood. Shortly after that the newspapers start running headlines about a child murderer in town, and Wade, his dad, and Carrie decide to move to a Texas beach house that was given to Carrie. There he enrolls in homeschooling and meets Sam who lives next door. As their friendship grows she reveals that she used to drink alcohol all the time, and have sex with whoever gave her beer. Wade then realizes that if their relationship is to go any farther he has to tell her the truth. He writes down everthing about his childhood and gives it to Sam to read. Does she accept him as who he is now or will his family be forced to move again? You've got to read to find out.

T. B. 11/16/07

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Batista Unleashed by Batista

Most wrestling fans know Batista from his days in the stable Evolution on RAW, and now as World Heavyweight Champion on SMACKDOWN!, but what they don't know is who he was growing up. Batista, whose real name is David Michael Bautista, was born in 1969 and grew up in Washington D.C. not to far away from the White House. His family lived in a poor section of D.C. and sometimes didn't eat at all. His mom would stock up when there were sales, and he and his sister would eat from what was there. Times were rough and as Batista got into middle school and high school he started ditching classes and sometimes the whole school day. He also got into a lot of fights, which helped him get a job as a bouncer at nightclubs after high school. He was also into bodybuilding, which made him even more intimidating. It wasn't until the age of 30 that he decided that he would become a professional wrestler. He had watched pro-wrestling growing up, but never really thought of it as a career. He first tried out for WCW in 1999 and thought it was over for him because of the way he was treated. A few days later he called WWE and met with Jim Cornette, the head of talent realtions for WWE. Batista then went to Afa's Wild Samoan Training Center to train to be a wrestler. After several months and recovery from an injury, Batista was given a tryout match and then offered a contract. He went to OVW, WWE's training facility, and was there for two years before he was called up to the SMACKDOWN! roster in 2002. On SMACKDOWN! he was Deacon Batista, the bodyguard for the Reverand D-Von. After that storyline played out he went over to RAW and became part of Evolution along with Triple H, Ric Flair, and Randy Orton. Evolution was together for about a year and 1/2 and then turned on Randy Orton when he won the title in August of 2004. From there the writers built a storyline around Triple H and Batista, which would lead to Wrestlemanina 21, in 2005, with Batista facing Triple H for the World Heavyweight Title, which Batista won. Then in January of 2006 Batista was injured at a house show, and was forced to relinquish the title. He was out for 7 months and and regained the title shortly after he came back, which would lead to a showdown at Wrestlemainia 23 with the Undertaker for the title. He talks about how his wrestling and travel schedule ended his marriage, and how it has affected his relationship with his two daughters. One of whom he hasn't talked to in a while. He also gives some insight into what goes on backstage at RAW, SMACKDOWN! and Pay-Per-Views. He's also included some stories of traveling on the road, which can be embarrassing at the time, but funny when you look back at them.

This is one wrestling biography to read. Batista is honest and doesn't hold anything back. If you want to know everything there is to know about the wrestler Batista you should read this book.
T.B. 11/14/07

Monday, November 12, 2007

Responsible by Darlene Ryan

This is the first Orca book that I've read, and I was pleased with the experience. The book, being Orca, was an easy read but yet tackled a serious subject. In Responsible Kevin is a new kid in town who just happens to get caught up in the wrong group of boys. The leader of the group is Nick, who rules the halls and delights in making kids miserable. Nick has a personal vendetta again Erin who doesn't cower under his tyranny. Her pleads to the principal to do something about Nick had gone unanswered aside from adding fuel to Nick's fire. Kevin, meanwhile, does as Nick requests, wanting to be accepted and fearing Nick's wrath. Eventually Kevin feels they should quit while they're ahead. Nick, though, doesn't like hearing his little minions telling him what to do, and starts to take out his power on Kevin. Soon, Kevin finds out about a plan Nick has to humiliate Erin and realizes he needs to prevent it from happening.

The overall message of the book, repeated multiple times to make sure it's clear, is that doing the right thing isn't always the easiest. In order to further the point, Kevin's father found money in the street and, even though they desperately needed it, he turned it into the police. I liked how the book used the two stories to get the message across. It's somewhat of a insurance that the reader walks away with what the book intended. This was also a compelling story. Just because series is for lower readers, doesn't mean they can't have entertaining and powerful stories. I really wanted to see Kevin succeed and find his way out of the mess he'd created by getting involved with Nick. This story is something teens can relate to, especially as they try to find where they belong in school. Just because a person is cool doesn't mean he's a good person to be friends with.

When I first picked up this book, I didn't have high expectations for it, but it proved to be a great story. Books don't need to be 200 pages long in order to have an important message. Sometimes less is more.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

3 teen novels about dating and relating from the guy's view point

KING DORK by Portman
Tom Henderson is a teenage boy obsessed with girls, a first intimate experience, becoming a famous rock star with his band mates. You can tell by the title that he isn't one of the popular kids in the high school. He's on a Dude or is that "dud" list kept by the most datable girls. There are some funny spots in the story. Its interesting to see what girl he finally ends up with. There is a side plot in which he investigates the death of his father using notes in a box of novels left behind. There is some question as to whether Tom's father committed suicide or not and a question of whether or not a teacher at the schools who was once a friend of Tom's father was involved in the death.

I had a hard time with this book for a long time. Gideon, who has had a fairly straight forward dating and relating experience, finds himself in a prep school. His roommates are known for their partying, drinking, sneaking out in the middle of the night to visit girls, being wild. It looks as if Gideon is following their leads and liking it. He stops contacting his girl friend back home - lost interest too chicken to tell her so. The guys make a bet as to who will lose their virginity first and with whom and the race is on. Ugh. The narrator of the story is a girl who for some unknown reason begins receiving Gid's inner most thoughts. So the reader knows both what Gid is saying and what he is really thinking and feeling. Its interesting. Wonder who that girl is? Wonder what happened to the bet?

FREAK SHOW by St. James
Billy Bloom finds himself in an ultra straight private school after his mother kicks him out of her home because of his life style and he moves in with his father. Billy is gay. Billy's preferred clothing style is drag. The school administrators and most of the kids are in denial about the existence of homosexuality. Even when Billy thinks he is being conservative he is quite outrageous. A couple of the kids do befriend him however. When a prank turns into a full blown
beating, a hate attack, a member of the football team, a good player with a good rep who has never dated, takes Billy into his protection. This gradually becomes first love of a very different kind from the previous titles. Its a fast read. Its had very very good reviews. Its an interesting look at a world most of us never see. This novel is based on St. James' real life experiences. He writes with wonderful humor.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt

In this story which is both fairy tale and romance, Keturah becomes lost in the woods and Lord Death appears to take her. She tells a tale that has no ending and bargains with Lord Death to give her 24 hours more of life to find the ending of the tale and share it with him. He agrees. Her tale is of a girl's search for her one true love. The girl is herself. She uses a charm, she uses her considerable baking and sewing skills and still she is not able to decide which of the young men in her town is her one true love. The price of the charm is to request that Lord Death spare the youngest son of the charm's maker. And so Keturah spins yet another tale and makes another bargain and gets another 24 hours to search. Intertwined with her search for love is the coming visit of the King and the threat of plague. Keturah is beautiful, compassionate and able to lead the town's people to transform the town for the king and clean it up to keep the plague away but folks look at her suspiciously and fear her somewhat as they know she has spoken with Death himself. She makes a final bargain with Death to save her town just as she has come to realize who her one true love is.
jdw 11/07

Monday, October 29, 2007

Jane-Emily and Witches' Children by Patricia Clapp

This book actually contains two novels that have been republished together. Jane-Emily is from 1969, while Witches' Children was first published in 1982. They seem a bit aged (you can sort of tell they are older) but they are still interesting stories.

Jane-Emily is set in an earlier time period and centers on Louisa, a young woman sent to spend the summer with her niece (Jane) at the grandmother's house. Jane is a very impressionable girl who suddenly becomes fascinated with a reflecting ball in the garden. The ball belonged to her Grandmother's daughter Emily who died at a young age. Emily is described as a manipulative hellion who got everything she asked for and had a fit when she didn't get it immediately. Jane soon begins to see Emily in the ball and has a few possessed moments thanks to the dead child. Louisa, who tries to put no belief into Emily, soon begins to date Adam, Emily's childhood friend/sweetheart. While Emily begins to impose upon their days, Louisa and Jane fear that she might also prevent the young lovers from being together, even if it means taking someone's life.

This novel, while intriguing, didn't live up to its potential. While it did contain a few creepy moments, they were few and weak. Maybe I'm a little jaded by today's standards of suspense (the novel is only 38 years old) but there could have been more. The characters, though, were interesting, particularly Emily who continued to rule beyond the grave.

Witches' Children details the events of the Salem Witch trials. It is told through the eyes of Mary Warren, a young girl who, you might say, gave into peer pressure. Her friends were interested in the powers of Tituba, a woman who could trance herself and read palms. One young girl also appeared to have the ability to "trance herself" and others wanted to try it too. Despite the warnings of bad things to come, they began to "see the devil" and suddenly become overwhelmed with screams and twitches. There was a large group of these children and when one began screaming, it was contagious for the other children, including Mary. Word began to seep out that the children were possessed and the next thing they knew they were claiming townspeople, witches, were pinching them and causing them to act in such a way. Multiple people, despite claims of innocence, were accused of being witches. Soon Mary's masters were charged with being witches and she began to realize that none of what they said was true. That caused her to be charged as a witch. In a great example of the times, merely stating that you were in fact a witch granted you forgiveness and an escape from death, while, as Mary said, " proclaim oneself innocent is to declare oneself guilty" (243). Soon the hype dies down, but not before most of the accused "witches" were hung.

While Witches' Children felt like a bit of a slow read (possibly due to faltering interest in the novel), it was intriguing to read it as a human nature story. The impact that these girls had on the town was utterly amazing. Scream a little, cry out someone's name, and suddenly that person is on trial. Mary knew that it was wrong and she was able to cease such behavior, but most of the girls weren't willing to give up the power they had. They were able to condemn anyone who'd wronged them in the past. And the way that people of authority gave into it and kept pushing until the point that people gave the answers they looked for...sheesh! The human nature aspect of this novel was amazing.

By today's standards these novels are a little mundane, but overall they weren't bad. You just had to approach them in a slightly different manner.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Everlost by Shusterman

This story takes place in a site between life and afterlife. In this place some foods like lovingly made birthday cakes, transportation like the Hindenburg, buildings like the twin towers, land where disasters have occurred and so on exist and kids ages 15 and younger can exist there, have adventures there, get stuck forever in a rut there. A few older kids have discovered how to reign, have power over others there, as long as they don't share the secret of going into the light...Nick and Allie discover the lies of Mary who seems sweet but isn't, the very scary Haunter with powers he will share for a price and the much feared McGill who they barely manage to escape after many adventures. Not my favorite Shusterman book but not a bad scary adventure story. Jdw 10/24/07

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ghost Hunting True Stories of Unexplained Phenomea from TAPS

The Atlantic Paranormal Society or TAPS is based out of Rhode Island and was founded by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson. They are a paranormal investigation group that goes to houses, hotels, restaurants, battleships, lighthouses, ect. and they use the scientific approach to determine if a place is haunted or not. They use tape recorders to get Electronic Voice Phenomena or EVP for short. They also use thermal imaging cameras and video cameras to try and catch any evidence of a haunting. They also use any personal experiences to help validate if a place is truly haunted, especially if there is evidence to back up the personal experience. This book chronicles some of TAPS early cases (which haven't been shown on TV) from a girl being possessed to a church that was haunted to a place with 2 good spirits and 1 bad spirit. It also chronicles a lot of the cases seen on the Sci-Fi television show Ghost Hunters which airs on Wednesday nights on Sci-Fi. A few worth mentioning are a light house in Florida where almost everyone on the investigation saw a black mass lean over a railing in the light house and said hello in a little girls voice (the evidence on TV looked really cool) to the WW II battle ship USS North Carolina to Rolling Hills Asylum in New York to The Stanley Hotel in Colorado, the setting for Stephen King's The Shining.

I really enjoyed this book, and liked reading about some of TAPS early cases. This book is for anyone curious about ghost hunting, or who just like to read true tales of hauntings from around the United States. If you want to see Jason, Grant, and the rest of TAPS in action watch Ghost Hunters Wednesday nights at 8 pm on Sci-Fi channel, and watch out because you may think you are alone but you may not be.

T.B. 10/23/07

Monday, October 22, 2007

La Historia de Ana By: Jenna Bush

This is a true story, based on the work the author did with UNICEF . By the way, the author is one of President Bush's twin daughters. This account in this particular book, can take place in any country of the world. I believe it relates to an event in a country in which I lived for 37 years. Time magazine of Oct. 22/07 mentions Jenna Bush's book, and it is in the Republic of Panama. Ms. Bush in her book includes many photos that are familiar to me.

What happens to Anna, and her sister is common in Latin America. The two sisters are left orphan, because the Mother dies of HIV positive. So Anna, and Isabel go to live with their grandparents.The Grandmother is gone daily for 10 hours to work as a waitress. The Grandfather is a construction worker, who works odd hours. He spends more time at home with granddaughters. On several occasions he sneaks in the girls room, and violates their sexual privacy. The girls fight him off . The Grandmother is never home when this happens.

The girls tell their grandma, but she does not believe them. The girls have no place to turn . Ana went to School and got good grades and had friends. Ana arranged for her to move to her best friends house for a while. The Mother was Yolanda, and was willing to house Isabel her younger sister. After a while, Ana went to an Institution were boys and girls where living. Everyone at the Institution had HIV in different stages. Ana had her own bedroom , so that was good. The meals were o.k. Ana still attended, and eventually graduated from High School. Ana met a boy that she fell in love with, his name was Beto. They loved each other so much , but the young man was HIV that was very advanced. They had a baby girl named Beatriz. Fortunately, the baby was not infected by the the virus. Ana had taken medicine since she was 13 to prevent the virus from carry over to any off-spring. The baby was tested for the Virus every three months and did not have the HIV Virus.

This story is based on a real event , that can take place in any country to anyone.

Read this book, when the Library has it in English. It should be arriving soon. It is a good book to read.

LRD 10/22/07

Friday, October 19, 2007

Yellow Flag - Robert Lipsyte

Race car driving has been a part of Kyle's family for generations. Kris, Kyle's brother, is the star driver of the family. Kyle is like the black sheep because he wants to play his trumpet and not drive a race car. Kyle is part of a quartet in the high school band. When Kris gets hurt at one race Kyle has to fill in for Kris. After the race Kyle feels what its like to be in a race and get good standing. Kyle's dad tells him that he needs to fill in for Kris until he gets better, and Kyle's friends start to question his commitment to the quartet when he starts missing practices to practice for the next race. Once Kris heals from his injuries their sponsor has grand plans for the brothers to race and even have another car built, similar to the one Kris and Kyle have been racing in. In the end Kyle doesn't give up music but doesn't give up racing either. I don't watch NA SCAR or any race car driving but I did enjoyed this book. It shows how pressure from you family can affect you and your friends and even things you love, like Kyle playing the trumpet. There is pressure all around and Kyle does a good job in handling his family and friends, and in the end deciding what he really wants to do.

T.B. 10/19/07

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz

This book is currently on order. When it arrives, it is definitely one to look into if you like creepy novels.

Derik is destined to work in his parent's diner, but that's not what he dreams of doing. He wants to be a filmmaker and finds the opportunity of a lifetime in a reality TV film contest. With the soon to be demolition of the towns mental institute, Derik decides to film a group of teenagers spending the night there. Each volunteer has his/her own agenda. Liza joins to have more team activities on her college applications, Tony and Greta see this a chance for publicity in Hollywood, Mimi wishes to connect with her Grandmother - a former patient, and Chet wants a night away from his alcoholic father.

Upon first entering the asylum, Liza admits to having odd feelings that the place doesn't want them there, that things aren't right. Needless to say, things are a little creepy in the asylum, particularly how they keep finding things related to one patient. Could she be trying to contact them beyond the grave? If so, what does she want? And why does she have to find freaky ways of communicating?

This was a book that I couldn't put down. I became just as invested in the patient as did the characters. I wanted to know her story. The creepiness was also nicely done. It wasn't too over the top, but enough to give you chills as you read. At the same time, the novel wasn't just about the ghosts. Part of it was about the characters figuring out themselves and connecting with each other. The characters explore whether or not they are victims of past behavior or if the images they present to the work are their true selves. Also, people who wouldn't normally associate grow close and there even are a few budding romances. It's a subtle social commentary, but it's enough to do the trick. It was nice to see how this book, initially sets out to scare, offers more in terms of character development.

This book is definitely worth the read. It isn't a blood bath horror fest, but sometimes scary is more than blood and guts. It's a psychological thriller that even forces you to think about yourself.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sun Signs by Hrdlitschka

A fast easy to read "novel" written in a series of e-mails among 4 students in a virtual/on-line high school. This story nevertheless takes a look at some important issues. Some questions that are considered but not definitively answered are : Can you really fall in love with someone on-line? How much of a writer's personality comes out in e-mails (without hearing a voice or seeing body language)? How much of what people say in e-mails is true, partially true, outright lie, lie just to have fun? and How much does a belief system and a positive attitude (or the opposite) affect your happiness, sadness, health? Kayleigh has several distant study buddies from taking on-line high school classes. None of the four goes to regular high school. All have different reasons which slowly emerge. Kayleigh now has a science research assignment. Her teacher allows her to research astrology and whether it is accurate in it's predictions. Three distant study buddies agree to read their horoscopes and report to her. They become her source for data. It appears that the the project is ruined when it is discovered that one of the participants is providing false data. Teacher insists she continue anyway using the data whether true or false and writing her conclusions. This all happens while Kayleigh is being treated for cancer. She is a Gemini, sign of the twins and writes in a diary to her secret twin where we learn of her struggles, hopes, fears, successes and failures. Recommended.
JDW 10/4/07

Monday, October 01, 2007

First Shot by Walter Sorrells

Two years ago David Crandall’s mother was murdered and no one had been arrested. His father, the headmaster of the private school that David attends, turns out to be the prime suspect, but there’s no hard evidence. That is, of course, until David witnesses his father burying something in the middle of the night that just happens to look like a rifle…

In the meantime, David doesn’t feel he has much to live for. In fact, he feels like an appendix, relatively useless (his words). The only thing he has to look forward to is shooting and working up to the prestigious honor of First Shot during graduation. Suddenly, though, he’s got competition in new student Misty Clearly. The two become friends as she pushes him to become a better shooter and he pulls her into the mystery of his mother’s death. Certain things just don’t add up. At his mother’s death she had in her possession a painting and a key. When David talks to the people who found his mother (an old childhood friend) he learns about a secret in the tunnels under the school, but the safe that the key belongs to was empty. Things start to fall into place, though, when he learns his mother hid important clues behind her painting. Soon the real murderer wants those papers and doesn’t mind sacrificing David in efforts to obtain them.

This book turned out to be really thrilling. Once the investigation of his mother’s murder got underway, it was a roller coaster ride of suspense and then a calm, only to be hit again with more action. The end, though, left me a little disappointed. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the wrap up of his mother’s investigation. The killer got what he deserved in a great tie in with David’s passion for shooting (David didn’t kill the person so that didn’t give anything away), but how the police concluded his guilt remained unexplained seeing as the evidence was destroyed. That brings up another point – two words: Zerox Machine! If a crucial piece of evidence is a piece of paper, always make copies! You don’t need to tell the bad man that you have copies, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Paper is very easily destroyed so you need to cover all bases. But really, that was my only pet peeve about the book. Just the ending, I didn’t get it. How was the innocent man freed? Who was the witness, what evidence did he provide?? Otherwise, David is a likable character with an enjoyable personality and I loved the flow of the suspense. Also, I like how his passion with shooting, and some of the techno-lingo fit into it all. During the competition for the First Shot and the explanation of some shooting terms, my eyes at first glazed over, but when I got to the end, I was like, "Dude, it fits! Nicely done!"

Great mystery! I’d been disappointed in other young adult mysteries but this one holds up.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Black Sheep By: Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout

I was curious about the title of this book, because in the late 1960's , & 70's there was a popular T.V. show that teens, and adults watched. This novel turned out to be a subject that was very pertinent to teenagers of today, and how they face everyday problems.

Kendra Bishop the main female teen, (15 yrs. old) is fed up with her parent's strict rules, and she feels the rules are very rigid, and old fashion. Then Kendra has courage and writes to a T.V. show called The Black Sheep, which is a reality show that exchanges families. Kendra is then exchanged to Monterrey, California to the Mulligan family. This family is a hippie clan with 5 children and a ferret that is their pet. Kendra falls for the oldest son who is 17 called Mitch. Kendra, and Mitch begin to do adventures that Kendra has never done. In the first place Kendra does not swim, but Mitch insists on going on Kayak's to see some otters. Kayaks are for 1 person, so Kendra is scared she will tip over in the kayak . She eventually tips, but is saved by Mitch. Many adventures occur between Mitch & Kendra. Mitch works in an aquarium with animals Kendra has never seen. Kendra meets teens, friends of Mitch that are environmentalist.

Kendra goes with Mitch to an all night protest re: environment, which leads to the group into trouble, and the teens end up in jail. There are more encounters, but you should read the book to find out.

I liked the novel very much, and it was similar to some of my teen events.

LRD 9/25/07

Las 6 Decisiones mas Importantes de Tu Vida Por: Sean Covey

The 6 most important decisions in life for teens are according to this book.
1. School, have you planned your education.
2. Friends, what kind of friends have you choosen, and what kind of friend are you ?
3. Parents, are you going to get along with your son and daughter's friends?
4. Relationships boy meets girl; who will you date? What have you considered about sex?
5. Addictions what will you do about smoking, drinking, and taking drugs. What about other addictions like gambling?
6. Our own values : Will you be able to love yourself, and still put up with stress, and pressure as a teen .

This book in my opinion seems to be a great manuel for teens to follow it it is for anyone to use that wants to.

Life could be short for each person depending on the indivdual; so we all should think and plan our lives.

When you are dating at the beginning as a teen, you should go out in pairs or groups. Only go outwith people that have good reputations. Avoid uncompromising situations like waiting alone in a parking lot, babysitting with your boyfriend where the adults are not home in the childrens' home.

This is a survey given to teens in 2007. What would you change with your body?Being better looking, better student, Have more confidence in myself, be a better athlete, Have a boyfriend/girlfriend, Be more popular, I will work harder, Never loose your hope.

Our decisions in life determines who we are. Please elect well in your life. Read only what will makes you stand out, and shine.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod - Heather Brewer

Valdimir Tod, when you first look at him you might find his name a little strange, or the fact that he's a bit pale, or that he has blood packets put into his lunch each day. The truth is that he is a half human half vampire. His father was a vampire who fell in love with a human woman, which is forbidden by vampire law. Valdimirs parents were killed 3 years ago in a strange fire that was contained to one room in their house. Since then he's lived with his Aunt Nelly. All Vald has is pictures of his parents, and yearns to know more about them. He goes to school like any normal teenager and the only one who knows he's part vampire is his friend Henry. When Valds English teacher disappears Mr. Otis comes and fills the position. Mr. Otis likes mythology and each week presents a different mythological creature, which includes fairies, werewolves, and of course vampires. During this time Vald finds a book in his Aunt's attic which belonged to his dad, and that leads him to the house where he used to live. He finds his dad's journal and reads about Elysia, where the vampires live. As he learns more about vampires he believes that Mr. Otis is trying to kill him, but as it turns out Otis is his Uncle, and will do anything to protect Vlad from the vampires who want to punish Vald for his father turning his back on the vampires and falling in love with a human. Otis also agrees to teach him all about vampires and the vampire way.
I enjoyed this book as it mixes elements of Harry Potter, Cirque Du Freak, and Vampire lore to give the readers a good read. Just as you think you've figured out things here comes a twist and throws you for a loop.

T.B. 9/21/07

Choices - Deborah Lynn Jacobs

Kathleen goes to a party with her best friend Jen. She calls her brother to pick her and Jen up because Jen is passed out and Kathleen doesnt know how to drive. While she is waiting for Nick to pick them up the cops show up looking for Kathleen and they tell her that Nick has been killed in a car accident. On the second night of the wake Kathleen is surprised when Jen shows up because Kathleen remembers ignoring Jen when she came over. She also meets Luke who says he went to school with Nick. As the days go by she remembers 2 different sets of memories. She also gets closer with Luke who turns out can travel between parallel universes, like she has been doing. At certain decisions Kathleen makes has a different outcome in the other universes. At one point she can go between 5 different parallel universes, and retaining the memories of the others. She finally decides that she wants to find a universe where her brother is still alive. Luke says not to, but she does it anyways. After a few months in that universe she decides to go back to the original one she was from.
An interesting look at how the choices we make affect everyone and everything around us. We as people look at what if we do this instead of this, or should I go out with this person or choose someone else. Who knows there could be parallel universes out there where the choice we didn't make happened, and that lead to a chain of events that we did not experience in this universe.

T.B. 9/21/07

Thursday, September 20, 2007

DARK FLIGHT DOWN by Marcus Sedgwick

This is the third book of a fantasy trilogy. It takes place sometime around 1500 when folks really believed in magic. Reminds me of Lloyd Alexander's BEGGAR QUEEN and of Funke's THIEF LORD.

The story revolves around many people's need to possess an ancient book which is believed to contain the secrets to immortality. Boy and Willow are street kids who work for Valerian for just enough food and warmth to survive. Valerian is a famous actor who dabbles in magic, astronomy and possesses the book in question. The king's men kill Valerian, ransack his home looking for the book. Willow and Boy on the street again are rescued by a sort of friend of Valerian. Kepler wants the book and Boy. He sends Willow to a work house from which she escapes. Boy returns to Valerian's house to get the book for Kepler. He is captured by the King's men lead by Maxim. The king has no heir. The king wants to live forever so his reign will not end. People who claim to know how to make him immortal but are proven to be fake are sent to a phantom monster in a lower dungeon of a castle. The same fate waits Boy for not revealing what he knows about the book. For reasons we don't know until the end of the story, Kepler who now has the book is determined to rescue Boy from his castle prison with Willow's help they arrive as entertainers. Thought they are not allowed to leave, they are not exactly imprisoned either. An innocent question by boy leads Maxim to a solution to the immortality problem. Boy, who the king has become fond of announces to the audience the fraud Maxim has just performed pretending to make the king immortal. Chaos ensues and eventually every thing is sorted out but not before many deaths on the part of the phantom who's identity is revealed as well. JDW 9/19/07

Flora Segunda by Wilce

Wilce lives in Chicago. This her first novel.
Flora lives in CrackPot House, a mansion of thousands of rooms with an elevator that carries folks anywhere it wills unless the rider lets it know it cannot. The result is that you can land in a room you have never seen before and may not be able to immediately find your way to where you want to be. There is also a house butler (elf) that can convince anyone to do his biding if one is not careful to see what he is doing. In this house lives Flora, soon to turn 14 and take on her adult role which has already been chosen for her and which she does not want, her mother Commanding General of the army, and her father, retired and not completely sane. With Flora wherever she goes is Flynn her dog and Udo her best friend. Flora and Udo are mostly on there own. They love adventuring and hope to one day be rangers. Rangers are members of a secret society which some believe do not exist. Certainly Flora's mother and the current rulers do not believe in rangers or in the magic they are said to be able to use. Flora clearly has magic in her and since it is untrained it is also uncontrolled with dangerous, funny, unpredictable results. So on her ranger adventures, Flora releases the house butler from a prison created by her mother and a notorious thief doomed for his dreadful deeds. She unwittingly allows the house butler to control her and she begins to fade away. It takes a wizard from a mysterious house across a a terrible lake to sort her out and stop all the difficulties she has started in her adventuring with her mother none the wiser, but perhaps her father is not as crazy as he seems. Flora and Udo seem rather young 14-year-olds but the story is a funny fantasy, an enjoyable read.
JDW 9/20/07

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Full of it by Wendy French

This was an enjoyable book, but I'm not entirely sure that young adults will be able to relate to the story. I know very few teens who are 26 years old, have a job at an insurance company, and recently inherited a house that they've moved into. Those thoughts aside, this was a pleasant read, so allow me to tell you about it.

Lauren Peterson recently broke off her engagement to Daniel and is trying to put her life back together. She's living with her best-friend Rachel, whom she works with at an insurance company, and feels like she's imposing on her friend. She also has a slight problem where she can't control her tongue and always manages to say the wrong thing. Her luck changes, though, when she inherits her Great Aunt's house. At first she figures she'll sell it and have loads of money. However, when her brother (whom she has a strained relationship with) suggests she split the money from the house with him and that she has no idea what she's doing, she blurts out she's going to move into the house. It seems like a good idea at first, but then she finds out it's not in the best shape and with financial problems, maybe her brother's right when he says she's in over her head. But house troubles aside, she's two great neighbors - Patty and her adorable grandson Thomas - not to mention a new love interest. Maybe things are actually going to be okay. Lauren, though, can't keep her mouth shut and relationships are put to the test.

The character of Lauren is one of those people we've all met. We might even be that person who just can't censor what we say. Her big mouth is what makes her charming and provides a many entertaining moments. Plus the old house she inherits, filled with stuffed animals (I'm talking stuffed raccoons from the wilderness not the cuddly stuffed animals you give children) is a heartwarming disaster. While the book was a little predictable in the end, it was a worthwhile read. As for teens, not so much of a connection, but plenty of older teens are already checking out the adult sections and this might be a nice suggestion for those teens. It might fit under the chick lit heading.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Life on the refridgerator door by Alice Kuipers

This novel is uniquely written in a series of notes between mother and daughter that they leave on the refridgerator. The mother is a busy doctor, refrquently on call and delivering babies while the daughter, Claire, is a fifteen-year-old busy with homework, friends, and a new boyfriend. The novel starts out with notes stating where they are, what they need, and catching up on each others' days. Soon though, the mother needs to talk to Claire and it's revealed that the mother has breast cancer. The notes then become filled with the anguish of doctor's visits, teenage angst, and the fear of what may come. As the mother struggles, Claire tries to be a source of strength and the mother tries not to be too much of a burden.

Seeing as this is just a series of notes (it can very easily be read in an hour), it doesn't delve into the full drama of this conflict. That's not to say, though, that it doesn't address the pain and make the reader sympathize for the characters. One thing I liked about it, though, was how much it makes one appreciate the simple moments you get with a loved ones. Claire and her mother couldn't find five minutes to be with each other and even in a time of crisis, it's one note after another. But even though they never saw each other, they managed to keep in touch. In the end, Claire has the memory of passing notes to her mother.

Needless to say, this novel is somewhat of a tear jerker. For someone facing dealing with breast cancer - whether a family member or self, this novel might not be the best read. While it'll make a person want to hold onto every possible moment with the loved one, this isn't an inspiring novel for recovery. It is though, a novel that many can relate to in this fast-paced world where every moment with a loved one is something that should be treasured because life can change in an instant.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Trick of the Eye by Haseley

There have been several books written lately involving real works of art such as CHASING VERMEER and GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING. This is another such book.
Teenager Richard has fleeting memories that don't match his mother's stories and unexplained nightmares. Now old enough to go out on his own and to be left home alone, he has begun to explore, to search for understanding. He discovers a painting in his mother's closet. One he remembers from his mysterious past. This leads to a search of art galleries for other works by the same artist. His ability, magically to communicate with the characters in the paintings aids him in his search for the truth. Eventually he discovers the terrible truths that finally help him recover from his traumatic early childhood and stop hating those around him for what they did.
Those interested in post traumatic stress syndrome might give this a try.

The Corps of the Bare-Boned Plane by Horvath

Horvath of EVERYTHING ON A WAFFLE and CANNING SEASON is always a laugh out loud funny read. Also, her books contain plenty of references to food. This time around its Jewish food and this reader had fun looking up recipes to see what was being served. Teen Cousins Meline and Jocelyn are orphaned at the same time. Their fathers were brothers, their parents were in a train wreck - all four killed. The girls find themselves on an island owned by their fathers' remaining brother and living in a huge Victorian mansion of his own design. He is really rather clueless about raising kids. After serving them mac and cheese and hot dogs for dinner every day until they began to grimace, he hired a cook for them then a butler. Along the way a kitten and a puppy are acquired. All the residents of the mansion live their own lives of quiet desparation, no one relates to anyone though it is suspected that the very silent butler knows more than he lets on. After hearing that the island was once a air training field and its littered with airplane parts, the cousins decide to try to build a plane and fly away. Their fathers were both pilots, they know how to fly. Meline, at least, knows how to assemble a plane. They spend all nights and many days searching for parts, in trees and under weed hills, leaving hidden inside sodden clothes since it's always rainy and foggy on the island. Uncle puts on a disastrous Christmas celebration based on his childhood memories and not at all on what anyone else might want. One by one the residents get terribly ill and slowly begin to heal with the help of a Dr. flown in by helicopter. The story of the drunk helicopter driver is a quite funny side story. During that time of physical healing they also begin to relate and heal from the life tragedies all the residents have suffered.
JDW 9/9/07

Strays by Ron Koertge

Koertge writes with humor, and understanding. Three teenage boys without families wind up in foster care together. They are very different from each other. One is a cocky gear head - loves his fast motorcycle, one is from a tough inner city neighborhood and Ted is from a sheltered environment where he worked in a pet shop and expected to be there the rest of his life until he lost his parents... Their foster situation is not ideal nor is it unlivable. They are old enough to do what it takes to get themselves through and to help each other find their way. This is a 167 page fast read. Its a book for compassionate survivors. It says it could be worse, you'll be OK.
JDW 9/9/07

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Will the Real Raisin Rodriguez Please Stand Up? by Judy Goldschmidt

This is the third Raisin Rodriguez book. While I have not read the other two books, this one was still enjoyable. There are a few moments where a little background knowledge would be helpful but that's to be expected. (I still haven't fully figured out who Samantha is - possibly a step sister?)

In the novel Raisin is excited about her new boyfriend - CJ - but she's still trying to figure out what having a boyfriend means. Just as things might be getting juicy for her and CJ, she has to go across the country to visit her father (her parents are divorced) for the holiday. One good thing about the trip (besides seeing her father) is reconnecting with her two best friends. *Note: this book is a blog written by Raisin to her friends in Berkley. When she's visiting them, she creates a new blog for her friends in Philadelphia, detailing her trip.* Her trip is all wrong, though. Her dad has a new identity, a new friend who just happens to be a girl, and her best friends have replaced her with Vivvy who Raisin feels is stealing her life. At the same time, CJ is nothing more than a clueless boyfriend, unable to sense his girlfriend's distress, and Raisin finds an unexpected ally in her friend's ex-boyfriend. Just as some things begin to fall into place, others fall and chaos ensues.

This was an enjoyable and light read. The blog style flows nicely and Raisin has a great personality. She may be a little clueless on certain things, but that's just a part of her charm. That's not to say those things are a little obvious for the reader, but where's the drama if she figured everything out the first time around? Seeing as this is the third book, I imagine the first two are just as good (or maybe that's too bold of an assumption...) Whatever the case may be, this was a nice read.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney by Suzanne Harper

Sparrow is the seventh daughter of a family of all women who are psychics. They are in contact with spirits who have messages for their loved ones, and Sparrow's family passes them on, along with the other residents of Lilly Dale. The seventh daughter is supposed to have extrodinary power, and Sparrow does, she just chooses not to use it. All of her six sisters, her mom, and grandmother use there powers on a daily basis. There are even gatherings at their own home. When school starts Sparrow decides to go to a high school an hour away where no one knows who she is or where she's from. On the first day she meets Fiona, who is a talker and wants to know everthing about Sparrow. Sparrow keeps the truth hidden from Fiona until later in the book. In their history class she sees a ghost of a young man. She is also paired with Jake to do a research project for the semester. Jake suggests they do it on Lilly Dale, where all of the psychics live, and of course Sparrow's family. As she gets to know Jake he tells her about his brother who got lost hiking. He still thinks he's alive, but he's not. Luke, Jake's brother, is in contact with Sparrow and wants her help so his family will know what happened to him. On the anniversary of his disappearance at a service Sparrow's true powers finally show when she delivers messages from Luke to his family, who is in attendance. They don't belive her, but Jake does a little and that leads to him and Sparrow taking the same trail that Luke did one year ago. That trail leads to a face to face, so to speak, of two brothers, one living and one dead.
A good book with quite a few funny parts in it. I liked how Sparrow tries to be a normal teenager even though she has spirits around her most of the time. Her family is a ritot to, I wouldn't know what to do if my parents had had 6 girls and I was the only boy.

T. B. 8/29/07

Monday, August 27, 2007

Windows into My World By: Ed. Sarah Cortez

This novel is basically a memoir, where Latinos writtings document their struggles with the issues that young people encounter. For example, friendship, death, anorexia, divorce, & sexuality

The short essays written by young men, & women from various latin countries. The countries we deal with are Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic reflect the diversity of growing up Latino in the United States. These memoirs demonstrate details of the individual lives of young Hispanic adults.

The stories, or memoirs are of honest reflection. This is an unforgetable read for high school student.

These memoirs create meaning out of life's events. Did you realize tha 50% of Latino's drop out of school.
LRD 8/27/07

Saturday, August 25, 2007

They Came from Below by Blake Nelson

During the summer Emily heads to Cape Cod to stay with her father and hang out with her best friend Reese. She and her friend fill their days with $2.99 pizza specials, spending time at the beach looking for cute guys, and avoiding Harold and Carl - a few locals who enjoy tormenting the tourist. This summer looks like it'll be the one when the two girls actually manage to wrangle the affection of two attractive Australians, Nick and Justin. Just as things start to get interesting, a giant blob shows up on the beach and two men arrive who stir things up just a little bit more. "Dave" and "Steve" are a little eccentric but a simple touch gives Reese and Emily a warm and fuzzy feeling and wildly happy dreams. Soon it's revealed the "Dave" and "Steve" are aliens from the ocean fearing for the planet after nuclear missile was lost at sea. They need to rescue their blob friend - who'd been taken by the government - or who knows what the consequences will be...With the help of Emily, Reese, Emily's dad, Nick, his sister Sheila, and even Harold and Carl, these aliens just might save the day. Save the Blob...Save the World!

This is an enjoyable story with fun characters. I'm not big into aliens, but this was a nice read. It had humor, action, a little bit of romance (tiny bit), and even some mystery. Fun for all, right? However, this novel (according to the front flap) is supposed to offer "a gentle appreciation for the delicate balance of Earth's environment." It seemed, though, to fall a little flat in that aspect. Sure there was this whole thing about who the ocean aliens could communicate with nature but I was a little unclear about why the world or oceans would be destroyed if the blob wasn't rescued. And come the end of the story it didn't seem as much had been done to help the environment. The last chapter even ends with a revelation that leaves you think "Hmm, what's up with that?" Maybe the whole "alien" subject made it a little less believable. Don't get me wrong, though, this was a really amusing story, but advocate-wise it fell a little short.

When you read this novel (it is a fun book so give it a shot) don't finish it expecting to go out and save the environment. Just look at it as a cute story with environmental undertones.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Defect - Will Weaver

David was born with bug eyes, pointed ears, and he hears everything. He hears so much that he's got to wear hearing aids to keep the noise out. The most peculiar thing about him is that he has these skin flaps under his arms which fold out into wings. He lives with his foster parents in Minnesota and attends public school. David is teased on a daily basis. It gets so bad that the principal decides that David is a distraction and sends him to an alternative school. When he gets there he meets Cheetah, who has epilepsy. As their relationship grows he slowly reveals things to Cheetah. One night he goes flying and he crashes. The paramedics take him to the hospital, but he escapes. His foster parents take him back and then they find out what he really is. David is reunited with one of the doctors who examined him after his birth, and the doctor convinces him to go through surgery to make him look normal. While he is at the hospital waiting for the surgery, David runs into Brandon, a child who is dying from bone cancer. After hearing his dying wish David decides to show him who he is. When David flies for Brandon, all of the other kids see him. He then learns that Brandon died overnight, and decides not to go through with the operation and reveal himself to the world.

T.B. 8/24/07

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tyrell by Coe booth

This is edgy urban lit. This is way outside my experiences growing up and my language style.
Tyrell is a good kid, trying to do what his moms expects of him - support her and his little brother Troy now that his father is in prison again and the family is homeless. What he knows best are the illegal activities his father was involved in. He throws a big illegal party with the help of the same people that helped his father. The story revolves around the events leading up to the party and briefly the aftermath. Tyrell's moms is a very unreliable person, she leaves little boy Troy alone a lot to go off and have fun, she refuses to try and support the boys and herself. She refuses to do anything social services recommends. She was once in prison so the family cannot go to a good family homeless shelter, instead they are stuck in a run down hotel, a distance from the boys' school. Tyrell has no choice really but to drop out even though he had been an ok student. He works to keep Troy going.
Tyrell has two girls who are friends and important in his life. Novisha, who is excelling in school and has a career goal. She is the girl he loves and hopes to marry someday. Then there is Jasmine, also homeless, also stuck in the rundown hotel. Jasmine has her head on straight despite her own hardships and is a great listener, supporter. Tyrell's relationships with the girls is very genuine and makes this book. Not too many books with a guy audience have guy/girl relationships in them as a central part of the story. As in real life, there are no easy solutions here, the book doesn't try to provide them. There is no happy ending but there is hope...
This is a great book. It has an interesting story itself, to read how it came to be published check out and lets hope it isn't too long before the author publishes again!
jdw 8/15/07

Monday, August 13, 2007

Skullduggery by Pete Hautman and Mary Logue

Skullduggery is the second Bloodwater Mystery and you don't really need to read the first to figure out what's going on. Roni and Brian don't have much in common other than solving mysteries. During a field trip they stumble upon a man injured in a cave. The man, Dr. Dart, is an archaeologist trying to find evidence that Indian Bluff is of archeology worth and shouldn't be turned into a housing development. When Roni and Brian find him, he'd been knocked unconscious after finding a pile of bones. However, since his head injury, he hasn't been making enough sense to present his case. In walk Roni and Brian who take over his case, trying to find clues about the bones and the cave, as well as figuring out a way to stop the bluff from being turned into condominiums.
Roni and Brian are likeable characters, which gives this series potential. This might just be the modern day version of Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Older Teens who are fans of Stephen King would enjoy this one. Joe Hill is King's son, though he in no way used his father's fame to get published. Judas Coyne is a successful rock musician. He went solo the year two members of his band died and the others left. He also developed an interest in collecting occult/macabre objects as the result of the two tragedies. When he receives an e-mail offering a haunted suit for sell, he has to have it. The very first night after he receives it and opens its heart shaped box, the suit's owner, the ghost of Craddock McDermott, appears in a rocking chair outside Jude's bedroom door. A little research reveals that Craddock is the recently deceased father of Jude's most recent ex-girlfriend and he is out to avenge the death of his daughter by suicide. A supernaturalist/hypnotist in life, his voice still has the ability to control the thoughts and actions of Jude and his current girl. Jude and MaryJane set out on a journey to get rid of this vengeful ghost, nothing is as it seems. Just when you think you have it all figured out it makes another turn. Jude's dogs and his music have some power to protect the pair from Craddock's power but only if they can concentrate hard enough of them.
JDW 7/11/07


Silence is golden so they say, but not when you remain silent when any reasonable person would speak up. Logan has to deal with the devastating affects of such a time. He loses his first and only best friend. His family is forced to move. He becomes the victim of a trio of bullies at his new school. He is crippled by guilt. Laurel, a quirky girl, a gutsy girl who refuses to be bullied, a girl who loves acting and palindromes takes an interest in Logan and won't give up on him even when he almost gives up on himself. The ending of this book is the beginning for Logan and I wanted more...
7/11/07 JDW

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger

"Nature creates many variations" (71). This novel explores one variation in which a girl (Angela) believes that she is a boy and so she decides to start living life that way. With a new haircut, new clothes, and a new name, Angela suddenly becomes Grady (a transgender). While high school is hard enough for any teenager going through puberty, add a complete identity crisis and things get even more complicated. Suddenly Angela/Grady has lost her one and only friend Eve who isn't entirely comfortable with the change, and now Angela/Grady is a new target for bully Danya. Even though some family members have slight problems accepting their new son/brother, things aren't all bad for Grady. He makes a new friend in Sebastian, has an ally in his gym teacher, not to mention a major crush on a girl who is his own little cheerleader.

This book was very eye opening. Not all high school students go through identities crises, but this novel does a great job exploring the struggle to figure out who you are. Angela/Grady knew from the beginning that she wasn't meant to be a girl and she had the courage to change, something many people don't have. To be gay or lesbian isn't as uncommon as it had been years before, but that's not to say people are that willing to announce it to the world. Being transgendered seems to be far less uncommon but yet it does occur. Most portrayals, though, aren't generally in the most positive light, generally in terms of drag or in the form of a date gone wrong joke. For that reason it might be extremely hard for transgendered people to come out and be accepted. Boys Don't Cry didn't exactly give the person a happily ever after. Angela/Grady, though, took the step to say that she wasn't comfortable being something she's not. She shouldn't have to pretend to be someone else just because it's more accepted by society. While this book might have downplayed some of the opposition she might have faced, it did a good job of presenting her struggle. It also had an excellent point about why do you have to be a girl or a boy? Feminine or Masculine. How much simpler would the world be if people weren't obsessed with fitting into a role? Guys don't want to look like a sissy and girls don't want to look too macho. Maybe if the world wasn't so hung up on being pink or blue, people like Grady wouldn't be so afraid to be themselves.

Even though this is fiction and maybe a little too picture perfect to be real life, hopefully this books gives struggling teens some comfort and support as they search for their true identity. This book also offers references and resources for those looking for extra help. As the book says at the end "We spend a long time trying to figure out how to act like ourselves, and then, if we're lucky, we finally figure out that being ourselves has nothing to do with acting" (287).

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Angel of Death by Alane Ferguson

This is the sequel to The Christopher Killer that was reviewed on January 23. In this book Cameryn, still just a 17 year old coroner assistant, helps with the bizarre death of her teacher Mr. Oakes. Oakes was found in bed by one of his Eagle Scouts - Kyle O'Neil. Upon discovery the first thing of interest is the fact that his eyes exploded. When he's autopsied it turns out that his insides were cooked. The strange death leaves everyone baffled to the point that the murder doesn't take up that much of the book since there's not much they can do when cause of death is unknown and there are no clues. The remainder of the book focuses on Cameryn trying to make sense of her life. Kyle has suddenly taken a romantic interest in her, even though she was a nobody to him before the murder; her mother who'd been absent for most of her life decides to come for a visit; Deputy Justin seems to have feelings for her; and her father has a new relationship. Will the stress in her life ease up? Will they figure out how Mr. Oakes died. Will his killer be found? More than likely yes, but you need to read to find out because I'm not going to give away the ending.

This book was a little bit better than the first one part in the sense that I knew what to expect. I still hold that it would be better in first person and I'm still skeptical about a 17 year old as a coroner's assistant. That, though, might just be me. Other problems with the novel include the fact that it's a bit obvious as to who the killer is. There just aren't enough red herrings (false leads). If you only introduce two new characters, it's more than likely one of those two will be the killer, not some character who hasn't appeared in the novel. At the same time, the climax was very reminiscent of the first novel: Cameryn face to face with the killer, no help in sight. A wee bit climatic, but at the same time, been there done that; this is a series, she'll survive. Okay, maybe I am a bit jaded because I've read so many murder mysteries, but it's not exactly original, especially when the first one pulled the same trick. It's just a little too formula for my taste. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad book. I liked how there was more to it with all of the conflict in Cameryn's life. It gave the novel more to work with.

If you're just starting to get into murder mysteries this is a good place to start. It gets you used to some gore involved in murder and used to mystery. If you're an old pro at these books it's an easy read if you're looking for something to pass the time with. Not bad, could be better, but worth a shot.