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.