Monday, July 30, 2007

"Runner" By: Robert Newton

This novel caught my eye right away. My Dad was a track star in University, and my brother Peter, who lives in Kentucky is a 5 k runner, and even has done marathons when he can. The author of this book is Australian. This book takes place in Melbourn, Australia in the 1900's.

Charlie is the oldest son of the family, and feels he is responsible for his Mother, and baby brother. You see the Dad dies, and the money is very tight in th household. Mother wants Charlie to finish his schooling. Charlie is not interested in School. Charlie becomes a courier for a notorious mobster. Charlie of course lies to his Mother, and realizes he is getting well paid. Charlie has to deliver liquor in the dangerous parts of town.

Charlie eventually, has to decide if he is working for the mob he may cut his life short.

Charlie meets Mr. Redmond, and Mr. Redmond encourages Charlie to start training as a runner. Soon Charlie competes in a big competition. Things work out for Charlie, and he becomes a hero.
Read the book, and you will learn how a young man changes, and has lots of courage.
LRD 7/30/07

"Duchessina" By: Carolyn Meyer

This novel is full of historical facts but presents them in fascinating ways. This is a novel about Caterina de Medici's life. She was born in Florence, Italy, but later became the Queen of France after enduring many hardships .

We might say, Caterina was the most wealthy girl in Italy durin this time. Yet she is placed, in a Roman Catholic Convent as a child for eight years. She must live like a nun, and doesnot receive adequate food for her childhood.

The Duchess receives the good news that she will move to Rome where she will live in the elaborate household of the Pope.Caterina, or the Duchess finds out later that the boy she dreams about lives in Rome. But unfortunately, the Pope makes him a Cardenal, so the Duchess hope of marriage are swept away ,& impossible.

The Duchess is a very determined woman, and very resourceful. "Caterina" ends up marrying theK ing of France. She is challenged in learning French. Marrying the King of France is a good option because the Medici family name is not well liked back in Italy. The novel takes place in the 1500's.

I encourage any teen, who enjoys History to read this novel.

LRD 7/30/07

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Introducing Vivien Leigh Reid: Daughter of the Diva by Yvonne Collins and Sandy Rideout

This is the first book of a series. Vivien Leigh Reid, who goes by Leigh, is being forced to spend her summer in Ireland with her estranged mother (Annika) on the set of a new movie. Armed with a bitter attitude, Leigh figures this will be the worst summer possible, especially since all she gets to do is sit around the sent and watch her mother act. When she meets Sean, the hot co-star, things seem to brighten up, especially when she realizes he's her soul mate. Even though he's six years older and only sees her as a kid, she knows that they're meant to be together. Suddenly the actress meant to play his sister contracts Mono and Leigh was asked to fill her shoes. Her new role makes things a touch more strained between Leigh and her mother and when Leigh suspects Annika of stealing Sean from her, the full strength of her anger and resentment is revealed.

Leigh is a great character, very relateable with a bit of a snarky personality. All of the supporting characters are lovable and easy to bond with. The story itself is enjoyable and a nice read. I like how it incorporated the script, both from the movie and the imaginary script that Leigh creates as she imagines scenes playing out in her head. One of my only problems with the book was the text messages. While it is totally natural for a teen to stay in contact with her best friend, possibly using text messages, the lingo wasn't always decipherable. It was more than the occasional "lol" or "l8r" but what does "L%kz" mean? Sure after a while you figure it out, but not everyone knows the shorthand of texting so it became annoying to read those short messages. But maybe that's just me. This was overall an enjoyable book and I see this turning into a fun series.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Genesis Alpha - Rune Michaels

Josh adores his older brother Max, and even though Max is away at college, they still spend time together on the weekends playing Genesis Alpha, an online role playing game similar to Runescape. One Saturday Josh and Max are playing and during a mission Max's character just freezes. A few hours later Max calls and says that he's been arrested for murder. The police come and take all of the computers from the house and Josh is cut off from Genesis Alpha. With the news covering the murder, and the fact that Josh is a designer baby, Josh's parents take him out of school for the time being. A few days after the murder he goes out to the shed and finds Karen, the sister of Rachel, the girl Max murdered, there. It takes a few days, but Josh eventually trusts Rachel and between the two of them that they find out the truth. They get onto another of Max's characters and find all this information on other girls that Max has collected while playing Genesis Alpha. Josh goes to the police with the information, and when he visits Max the next day in prison, Max knows that Josh has betrayed him. Meanwhile Rachel refuses to go home, and is always debating with him wheather he will turn out evil like his brother or not. Josh was made to save his brother who was dying from cancer, and some of the stem cells were taken from Josh and put into Max. Rachel believes that it was those stem cells that made him murder her sister.
A really good fast moving novel that goes into the age old debate of wheather or not someone can be born good or evil, or is it our actions that decide that. Also, the medical ethics behind creating a life to save another, and letting the second life live.

T.B. 7/26/07

Monday, July 23, 2007

Chasing Yesterday #1 Awakening by Robin Wasserman

This is the first novel of a series about a young girl trying to find out who she is after developing amnesia. J.D. (Jane Doe) was the only one injured/involved in an explosion in an abandoned warehouse area. She has no memory of who she is and was shipped off to a Center of Juvenile Services to wait to be found. There she made friends with a boy named Daniel and an enemy out of a girl named Mel. In one act of defense, J.D. managed to exhibit an unnatural amount of strength, seriously injuring Mel. As this is going on, J.D. has haunting visions of an evil man and destruction, sometimes going into trance like states. Soon, though, J.D.'s mother arrived, stating that J.D. was in fact Alexa Collins. Her mother insists that she visits Dr. Styron who treats her with hypnosis, although not revealing what was said when she was under. At the same time, it appears as if Dr. Styron is the man she keeps dreaming about. J.D. is told not to leave the house and isn't given allowed contact with other people other than her mother and Dr. Styron. All of this is just a wee bit suspicious, almost too much to not raise a few eyebrows. Even as she starts to remember some things, she's a bit suspicious of people and the mystery unfolds as to what happens when she's hypnotized and who she really is, or isn't.

Since this is the first novel, there aren't too many answers. In fact, the answers that are revealed also present more questions. That's to be expected, though. It was an easy read and a bit interesting, but it could be better. It was almost too simple, too obvious. The surprises were predictable. I think that older kids might be bored, although with the heroine being only 13, I guess this is for early high school rather than later. It wasn't a bad read, but it was too easy to figure out what was going on.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bad Kitty by Michelle Jaffe

This chic lit novel is filled with chatter about designer clothes, shoes, makeup, bags, faux designer perfume. It has a lot of trendy conversation such as that is so American Express (don't leave home without it). Actually this chatter constitutes most of the story. The bottom of the page conversations among the characters take up a big part of the book too. Those conversations seem very real, you can almost see the characters hanging around talking. Folks who like this story call it cute. Teens who enjoy chic lit may enjoy this too. There is a bit of a mystery here too.

Jasmine is on vacation at a resort in Las Vegas. Her cousin and a friend are there too. The cousin is very into style, makeup and so on. Jas who is not, endures a lot of taunting from her cousin as well as from one of a trio of friends who come in later. You can almost see Jas roll her eyes when these girls are giving her a hard time. She really prefers forensic investigations to cool clothes and makeup. Adults are largely absent except as bad and good guys in the mystery.

Jas catchs a cat that is on the loose. It turns out to belong to the son of a famous movie star, Fiona who is also staying there. The boy, Fred thanks Jas but also says a lot of other things very quickly before being dragged away by an angry man. It looks like there is a mystery worth being investigated.

As Jas digs around she discovers that the boy possibly witnessed a murder that his father had been charged with. The father is on the loose. Perhaps he is trying to find Fiona and Fred and murder them as well? She crosses paths with Jack who seems somehow to be involved in the mystery as well as Ivan who turns out to be the angry man. Twice she is nearly killed by a mysterious person who drives a purple fake fur lined car and wears a fake beard. She calls in her trio of friends to help her unravel the mystery and unravel it they do but not before they, Fiona's husband and several others are almost killed on a boat in the middle of Lake Mead.

This silly story might be fun for some - not for me. I like things a bit more serious.
JDW 7/11/07

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sara's Face by Melvin Burgess

This novel is written as if the events actually happened. The introduction even starts "Just about everyone knows the story of Jonathan Heat and Sara Carter" (Burgess 1). Needless to say that after feeling out of the loop and Googling those people, I discovered that it is not a true story. The novel, though, is still written as if everyone knows what happened. The introduction lets the reader know that Heat is in jail for his crimes and Sara is incommunicado, but beyond that, the events that "everyone knows" aren't fully revealed.
Before I tell the "story" I should indulge that this novel isn't so much a story/narrative as a pseudo documentary detailing what happened. The events are retold by characters involved through "interviews" and the occasional video diary from Sara. Some sections do take on a story like appearance with a third person omniscient narrator, but it still has a feel as if like these events are recreated for the enjoyment of the audience. It's an interesting and awkward storytelling to describe but it seemed more like a documentary than a novel.
Here's the story being reported: Jonathan Heat was a pop star obsessed with his looks. He went through so many plastic surgeries to reinvent himself to the point that his face was actually deteriorating and he hid behind a mask. Sara Carter was a young girl also reinventing herself with different voiced and personas. At the young age of 16 or 17 she was considering plastic surgery. After an accident with an iron she met Heat who welcomed her into his home due to her singing talent and promised to get her the plastic surgery she wanted. Many people thought she was too young and not stable for the surgery, but Heat and Wayland Kaye - the crazed plastic surgeon - saw nothing wrong with giving her an operation. During her time at Heat's mansion, Sara started to see a ghost - a young girl wearing her clothes without a face. Obviously spooked, she reconsiders the operation to the point of thinking about running away but yet Heat and Kaye insist that she was fine and in perfect condition (physically and mentally) for the operation. Fears abound, though, that this operation is more than a nose and boob job but rather a face transplant for Heat. Whether that actually happen isn't confirmed or denied until the end...
The story is intriguing, especially with the ghost mystery. What's even more scary is the reality behind the story. Not only is there a prevalence of teens having surgery but also the fact that there has been a real face transplant. Granted the real life face transplants were only the lower half of the face, doctors are exploring the possibilities. Kaye didn't seem like the sanest of all surgeons. He and Heat were very obsessed with pushing the plastic surgery button that it was almost scary to think about what they could and would do. More than likely there are doctors out there like Kaye who might resort to deception and murder to see what they are truly capable of. This novel did a good job of exploring those horrors.
It also presented an interesting insight into the plastic surgery obsession. Heat and Sara suffered from an undiagnosed illness where they were incapable of seeing their beauty. It was as if they didn't recognize themselves in the mirror and that's why they desired plastic surgery to create an image that they would recognize. So many people in today's society have image issues that it is possible that it might be a medical problem. Just today (7/10) on the Good Morning America they were talking about people who cannot recognize/remember people's faces because of a brain malfunction. It might be possible that people are obsessed with plastic surgery because they physically don't recognize the face in the mirror.
This turned out to be a thought provoking novel. The writing style was interesting and the more I think about it, I don't think it would have been as effective written as a typical novel/story. Treating it as if this were a real event makes one realize how possible this horrible event is. I've had somewhat of a delayed reaction to the book. At first I wasn't impressed, but the more I think about it, the more I'm intrigued. My advice is to just give the book time. I think the end is worth it.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Dramarama By E. Lockhart

This is a novel about teens, girls, & boys who spent one summer at a School called Wildwood Academy. This is a boarding school for the performing arts; that tests the bond between Sadye, & her best friend Demi. Sadye changed her name Sarah to feel more at ease at her school. Sadye ends up being expelled from School because of all her off campus outings. Sadye brings hard liquor to her dorm, which she effentually she getss caught.Sadye was a student who was unhappy, because she never obtained a major role in, or part in a play. All her friends got major parts in different plays.

Sarah's friends were happy, & satisfied with their situation at the private school. This dorm life was an education by itself. The teens have to get along with each other in order to cope with arts School. You have to really try hard to be a friend of your roomate, or roomates.

I enjoyed this book very much; because when I lived in Mexico City I attended private School, & even wore uniforms.

LRD 7/8/07

Harmless by Dana Reinhardt

If you lie and hold to the lie, will you get away with it? Who will suffer because of your lie? How will your life be changed?

Three private school freshmen girls, are sort of friends since they don't really fit anywhere else. One, Mariah, is dating an older guy from the public high school. Hoping to get more time with her BF she invites the other girls along for a sort of party, a chance to meet older public school guys too.

This sounds pretty cool even though their parents would never agree to it. So they just tell the parents they are sleeping over at each others' homes - no one ever checks. So far so good and Emma hooks up with one of the guys though she was quite drunk and doesn't clearly remember whether it was a good experience or not. She suspects not.

Next time, they tell the parents they are going to a movie. No problem, except that one set of parents decides to go to the same movie and - no girls.. They are so busted.

In a panic they concoct a story about being attacked as they sat by the river talking until time for the movie..Police are called in, they become famous at school and in the news for fending off the attacker, but things are not ok. Guilt plagues Emma, an innocent man is accused of the crime, one of the girls, Anna loves the attention and a new BF so much, she isn't going to get the man off the hook, Mariah has lost her older BF who was just using her and is in depression.

Things draw to a head when the girls are arrested at school in front of their classmates after Emma caves. Yes you can be sent to jail for accusing, unjustly an innocent person. But you all will have to read to find out how the situation is eventually resolved.

JDW 7/9/07

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

"Hijas Americanas" By: Rosie Molinary

This is a non-fiction book that deals with different teens born in different latin countries, for example Mexico, Central America, & South America. It is a very unusual book that has to do with Latina teens who have come to the United States to live & grow up.

Coming of age is awkward, & challenging for any teen, but there are complicating factors when you grow up as a Latina. For Latinas there are cultural, social, economic, & biologicaal factors that impact their decisions.
Latin parents encourage their daughters to marry hispanic men. One teen said her Mother told her be proud of the two cultures. I grew up in the Mexican culture & the AngloSaxon culture. My parents said I was getting the best of two worlds.
First generation Latinas are less likely to be overweight than their second & third generation peers. Something interesting to notice is Latina girls are the second most overweight group of teens in the United States. Its interesting to know, obesity among PuertoRican, & Mexican American children between the ages of 6 & 7. Latinos eat less fruit, but more fast food.
Unfortunately, Latinas are portrayed for their looks. Interesting enough the most popular surgical procedure was nose reshaping, breast augmentation, & liposuction.
In the Latin Culture, there are two extreme viewpoints of women, the nurturer, housemaker Mother who keeps the family together, & the opposite which is the promiscuous, irresponsible woman that men may fool around with, but do not marry.
My advice to Latina women is do things because you want to do for yourselves. Latinas are the harshest critics of one another. One PuertoRican teen advises, accept who you are, be who you are, & accept your own identity. If you pretend to be someone that you are not, then you really are not a Latina, or an American.
LRD 7/3/07

Monday, July 02, 2007

Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins

This is the story of a "Fallen Angel" that takes over the body of a boy named Shaun. Kiriel, the "Fallen Angel," wanted to experience human life which he's been observing as part of his job. He takes the body of Shaun Simmons who is about to step in front of a truck. Then he starts to live Shaun's life. He only has a few days and, rather than acting like Shaun, he does his own thing. Much of his time is spend experiencing things for the first time and then he decides the "plant seeds" in hopes of making life for the people around him a little bit better. At times he has his own agenda, like trying to help Lane connect with Shaun who she's infatuated with just so that he can experience sex. For the most part, though, he makes up for Shaun's shortcomings in his family life and attempts to change the school bully. In the end, though, his time come on Earth isn't meant to last.

When the book ends, we don't really know if he was truly successful at changing the people he interacted with, which is nice. It's not a fairy tale ending where the characters have sudden epiphanies because of their interaction with the one person. Life isn't that easy; some people don't change. But the novel has created the possibility that they might change. The seed has been planted and it's up to those people to make the difference. The author also did a good job showing someone's first experience with the simplest things like feeling a T-shirt or taking a shower. This book makes you look at life a little bit differently. It makes you wonder if you're taking things for granted and if there are a few things that you might still be able to fix before it's too late.

The Decoding of Lana Morris - Laura and Tom McNeal

Lana is 16 and has been put with foster parents Whit and Veronica along with Tilly, Carlito, and Garth, who are special needs children. Carlito goes around and touches everones shoulders like he is blessing them. Garth loves superheroes and wears superhero t-shirts every day, and does not liked to be touched. Tilly loves the color pink and will eat only pink colored food. Lana does not like Veronica at all. Lana's nick name for her is Ice Queen. One day Lana decides to hitch a ride with Chet, the next door neighbor, and his friends. They go to the town of Hereford where Lana goes into a Oddments and Antiques shop. She finds a ladies drawing kit in a trunk for $2. She buys it and on the way back home she draws Chet. After she's back home Veronica is not happy she took off and says that she found pills in Lana's room while cleaning. She then draws Veronica on the paper from that kit and also erases part of her arm. Later that night Veronica is in a car accident and her left arm is severed just above the elbow, just like Lana's drawing. While Veronica is recovering Lana takes over the cooking and the cleaning of the house. Lana becomes even closer with Tilly, Carlito, and Garth who become like family to her. Then Social Services shows up saying that they are going to take them away and put them into separate foster homes. They then make a break for it and with Chet driving they make their way back to Hereford where she feels truely at home.
T.B. 7/2/07