Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Wicked: A Pretty Little Liars novel by Sara Shepard

Pretty Little Liars could have ended with the fourth book Unbelievable, but that would be too easy. Hanna, Emily, Aria, and Spencer return in this fifth book, trying to start over and learning that their problems have only just begun. Maybe this book is a little bit more of the same, but it's still an intriguing novel that has me waiting for the next novel.

Wicked begins with Ali's killer in jail, A dead (I'm not going to give away their identities for those readers who have not caught up) and the girls trying to restart their lives. Emily is even more sexually confused when she finds herself attracted to a boy. Hanna's soon to be step-sister Kate is working to becoming her BFF. Aria's mother is trying to date again and Aria finds herself attracted to this new man. And lastly, Spencer's family seems to have disinherited her after what happened with the Golden Orchid. As the girls try to sort out their lives, Ali's killer is released into house arrest due to his/her dying mother and the minute that person steps out, A reappears. Could they be one in the same? Will the four girls ever be able to live their dramatic lives in peace? How can one person honestly know everyone's secrets? The questions remain and more pop up as the pretty little liars continue to deal with their inner demons, coming in and out of friendships, all the while learning more and more about who they truly are.

The book starts out a little rocky. The first page threw me off with the repeated mention of high end merchandise brands. That, however, faded as the novel progressed. Just like the other four novels, it started with a flashback to a scenario when Ali was alive. This memory reappeared throughout the novel. After that, is still dragged because we needed to set up where all of the characters were now that their mysteries have been solved. Once each story picked up, the story really started to get interesting, especially when A reappeared. Come the end, just like all the others, the characters' lives are in complete disarray and what we all thought isn't so. Once again you're sucked into the story wondering what will happen to Hanna, Aria, Spencer, and Emily. I really love the fact that the author gets the reader invested in every character.

While this novel at times feels like the same concept as all the others - Oh no, who's A? Why won't this person just leave me alone? - it still turned out to be an enjoyable novel. So much of it rides on the intriguing lives of these characters. A aside, I want to know where these characters are going and that bond between character and reader really keeps these novels alive. I look forward to number six and encourage teens to pick up this series. It is important, though, to read them in order. I don't think there's enough backtracking to pick up any novel and start. Plus, it's all worth the ride.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Garfield Minus Garfield by Jim Davis

Garfield has been a comic sensation for 30 years. I grew up with him thanks to my older brother and now, thanks to Dan Walsh, I have a whole new appreciation for the one supporting cast member - Jon Arbuckle. Walsh felt that he related to Jon and started to erase Garfield from the comic because when you really think about it, Jon is talking to himself because everything Garfield says is a thought bubble (I never thought about that). So Walsh erased everything that Garfield said, leaving Jon to his own devices. What's left is a amazing portrayal of a man trying to make the most of life, a man that many people can relate to and sympathize with. Before these altered comics became a book, Walsh created a website with his alterations (garfieldminusgarfield.net) and received fan mail from people with bipolar disorder who felt that they really understood what Jon was going through. When you stop to think about it, Jon is a bit bipolar. He has his crazy moments when he's manic, and he most definitely has his depressed lows. You don't even need to have an illness, though, to understand what he's going through - I saw myself reflected many times. What's nice about that connection, though, is that it allows you to stop and chuckle at yourself, that maybe life isn't as bad as you think. This book is a hilarious collection of Garfield comics minus Garfield. One nice thing about the book is that it includes the comic in its original form and the altered form. Jon is really the comedic relief to Garfield's sarcastic/cynical personality.

This book was excellent and should definitely be picked up for a quick chuckle. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and now I have a greater appreciation for the underrated character of Jon Arbuckle.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

First Time by Meg Tilly

First Time is a book from Orca Soundings, which takes deep, serious topics and writes them in a fashion that low readers can enjoy without struggling. The readability is easy, as intended, but I feel like the story isn't as developed as it should be.

Haley is starting to feel all alone. Her best friend, Lynn, now has a new boyfriend and car, which are taking precedent over her friendship. On top of that, her mother has a creepy new boyfriend, Larry. Things take a turn for the worst when Larry assaults Haley in her bedroom. Not wanting to ruin her mother's relationship and unable to talk to her best friend about it, Haley struggles to deal with the emotional damage Larry did to her.

This is an interesting story and for the most part it works in the condensed format, right up until the end. I felt like the ending didn't solve anything. The truth comes out but there's no healing. The book needed one more chapter and then I would have been perfectly happy with it. The topic of sex for the first time is dealt with without becoming a sex talk. There's an awkward condom buying scene, but that, like the language of the novel, felt genuine. The story and situations work, right up until the end. I simply felt like there needed to be more closure.

Orca Soundings is a great franchise for lower readers who want intriguing stories without the struggle of reading. That doesn't mean, though, that they need to lose out on the full depth of a story. They shouldn't be cheated out of a good ending. Just the same, this was an enjoyable book.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Dark Dude By: Oscar Hijuelos

This is a novel that makes one think about where we came from, and what are present status in life is. The main character, or player, Rico Fuentes comes from Harlem, in New York, and decides to hitch hike with his friend Jimmy to Wisconsin , where his older brother Gilberto rents a run down farm, where he has a few boarders. The farm does not produceany income. Although one boarder, grows marijuana, and makes a living.
I forgot to mention Rico has not finished High School, therefore he has a hard job to find employment . Rico is light skin, and has light hair, so it is easier for him to blend with the people of Wisconsin. One day, his older brother Gilberto comes home with a job offer for Rico pumping gas at the local gas station. He Rico says he will try it. Rico works the night shift. He has certain duties to complete during his shift. He must clean the men, and women's bathroom daily. That's besides keeping a toll of the cash, and taking care of his clients . He mostly fills up semi-trucks, and pick-up trucks.
Until one night, a car pulled up, and the man started beating up Rico for no reason, and breaking the mirror in the men's room. In fact, they threatened Rico's life, when he was thrown to the ground. Of course, the car was filled up with gas, and the men left without paying Rico.
The novel is a good read, and reminds me a lot of the book "Tom Sawyer" that I read in 9th grade. This novel is especially good for Hispanics 8th-10th grade .
LRD 12/8/08

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Blood of Flowers By Anita Amirreziani

The novel was super intriguing to me, because it dealt with many problems that arise in the Middle East, but in the specific country of Iran that used to be Persian. The beginning of the novel takes place in the rural area of Iran. This place or village have no means to acquire a good income. In fact the people who live in this rural village are considered poor. The basic way of living is creating elaborate Persian rugs for selling in the market. The rich people who are merchants ,but Shahs bargained the seller so much, that makers of gorgeous rugs after working hours on the rug made no profit. The family that depended on rugs in the village worked long hours on their tedious creation. Before the family made the trek to family in another town, the head of the household died it was the Father.
The main character of the novel was a beautiful female, who at the beginning was 14 years old in the novel. Her whole family left the Village to come to the city, where the wife/Mother had cousins where they could stay and have food an shelter. The food was not fancy, but suffice to live on.
There was a man who was rich, who lived in a mini-palace . He somehow the girl, who made the gorgeous rugs from the humble live in the village. He was attracted to her, and proposed a monthly marriage contract. This rich man had a wife, but he wanted an extra mistress, young to
boot.This novel has a lot of adventure, & this young women has to take her life into her hands. Book is good for 11 & 12 graders as they are exposed to a different culture. I loved the novel.
LRD 12/7/08

Friday, December 05, 2008

boyheaven by Kasischke

This was first reviewed by MM in September. Because it got great reviews, I wanted to read it too. Ok so here goes, MM already gave a summary of the plot so I won't. This is meant to be an urban legend. It says so in the first pages. As a scary true story told around a campfire and past on again and again, it could work. But its too thin for a full length novel. Its hard to keep in mind that this is supposed to be scary. Instead all the fleshing out makes it seem more like typical chick lit. The surprise ending is a long time coming. At least it was for me. Maybe it wouldn't be for kids who like Lite reading though and its basically a tight plot. Kasischke is a poet and I like the poetic flow of the words. I like much of the description though some of it gets a little silly. One of my favorites is "blackened drama of a burnt marshmallow". Also, I suspect most of it is done in an attempt to make the story longer. Joyce Carol Oates retells in fiction form tragedies that actually occurred such as the Chappaquiddick tragedy. So perhaps that's where her positive review came from? Or, maybe she is trying to help a struggling new author. This isn't a terrible story but its not a great one either. The legendary Dorothy Broderick, founder of VOYA magazine once cautioned reviewers not to review negatively books that may have an audience in readers looking for uncomplicated reads, perhaps that applies here. I couldn't help but remember reading Sweet Valley High when I was plodding through this. JDW 12/5

Useful Fools by Schmidt

This is an historical novel based on the political terrorism that started in Peru in 1980 and though mostly over there is still unrest and violence in Peru. The Senderista or Shining Path were revolutionaries that attacked sites where wealthy Peruvians were trying to help less fortunate residents. Rosa's father, a wealthy doctor started a clinic for poor pregnant women in an poverty stricken area of Lima. Magda a poor pregnant woman, Alonso's mother volunteered there as a nurse. Rosa and Alonso also helped out when they could though school limited what these teens could do. They fell in love there. On the day the Senderista attacked the clinic, Rosa froze under gunfire and Magda died saving her life. After, Alonso angry at his loss and punished by his father fro not being more responsible, seeks out his long time friend Rodolfo. Rodolfo has already decided to join the Senderista and takes Alonso with. Its a twisted logic that causes them to consider joining the revolutionary group that is more bent on violence and killing anyone that gets in their way, even people doing good works in impoverished areas. Readers will come to understand this. Alonso, does also and escapes even as Rosa goes looking for him at his home in the poor area of Lima and finds Alonso's younger siblings alone and terrified and Alonso's father arrested by the police because of Alonso's actions with the Senderista. This story has a happy ending which perhaps is unrealistic. In addition, somehow the true pointless horror of the violence and killing gets bogged down in the politics and dry telling. Frances Temple's telling of the violence in Haiti is much more riveting. The Senderista call wealthy people helping poor people useful fools. In the end these terrorists killed 70,000 Peruvians. Of their victims 75% were poor native people they supposedly were trying to help. The government and the wealthy except for useful fools went largely untouched. This according to the author's end note. This is a story worth telling, worth knowing about. If only it were a more lively telling. JDW 12/5

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

ruby's imagine by Kim Antieau

This is a short fats read. It is set in New Orleans at the time of the Hurricane Katrina disaster but it really isn't about Katrina. Ruby has an unusual connection with nature. She even has a special language she uses. For instance trees are rooted people. She works at a bakery,lives with her grandmother, attends school and lives a fairly good though poor and simple life. She also has memories of a life her grandmother says are not real memories. Her memories include living n the swamps, having two sisters, and a father with a white alligator good luck charm. Grandmother is one of the people who chooses to ride out the storm in her home since there have been others and nothing happened. Ruby stays with. This time is different, the house floods and they escape to the attic where the roof blows off. Grandmother in her fear tells Ruby that she has been lied to all these years, her memories are real. Grandmother had threatened to turn Ruby's drug using mother in to the authorities if Ruby wasn't given to grandmother to raise. Ruby is able to escape but not get help back to grandmother. The devastation to both land and people is vividly portrayed. When eventually Ruby is reunited with grandma, all the family secrets are revealed in a heartwarming, hopeful ending. Anyone who has ever felt close to nature as well as Ruby does will love this book. As will anyone who has lost family but gained a different one. JDW 12/3/08

Monday, December 01, 2008

Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman

This novel has a certain charm to it that I can't tell if it's in my head or actually present in the novel. I know that doesn't make much sense but for some reason, as I read this novel, I had an 18th century British accent speaking the words which may or may not have been influenced by the character's enthusiasm for Jane Austen. Whatever the case, it added something to the reading experience of this enjoyable novel.

Julie's best friend Ashleigh is a bit of an enthusiast where she basically becomes obsessed with one thing and won't give up, no matter how eccentric it is, until something else catches her eye. Her latest fad is Jane Austen and that includes dressing like the characters from her novels and speaking like them (i.e. the 18th Century British voice in my head). Ashleigh insists that she and Julie need to find their Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley and the only place for them to find suitable suitors would be at the all boy prep school in town, particularly at the fall formal. As luck would have it, they are successful in finding two such men, Parr and Ned. As perfect as it would sound, there being two girls and two boys, it turns out that the man Ashleigh hooks up with - Parr - just happens to be the same boy Julie has seen around town and formed a major crush on. And so ensues the constant struggle for Julie with her emotions over her feeling for Ashleigh's "boyfriend." To make matters worse, they join a musical at the boy's school where she's constantly in his presence while trying to hide her feelings and, on top of that, there's the "igsome" Seth who likes Julie despite the fact that she doesn't harbor the same feelings. Will Parr realize her true feelings for him? Will they ever be together with Ashleigh in the way? And will Seth ever get a clue that Julie just doesn't Like him?

This novel is really enjoyable, especially how it plays off of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and even incorporates some Shakespeare with sonnets and the musical based on A Midsummer Night's Dream. The situations and struggles are classic and thoroughly delightful. Ashleigh is a great character. I loved how eccentric she was and how loyal she is to both her cause and her friend. Julie, the narrator, is definitely a character that you cheer for and Parr, well, he's the guy you root for her to end up with. Everything fit together perfectly, although the accent started to drive me crazy. It was nice for Ashleigh speaking in the dialect - it made her enthusiasm authentic - but I felt as though the narrator tended to pick up some subtle undertones of the style and that maybe put it over the top. It did make it feel more attune with Jane Austen, but if I wanted to read an Austenian novel, I would have picked one up. Then again, maybe it's just the voices in my head and the whole style is what makes the novel so different.

Writing style and accents aside, I really enjoyed the story. It's a modern chic lit with the perfect hint of classic literature to make it a masterpiece - or at least a runner up.

Paper Towns - John Green

Quentin Jacobsen has lived next to Margo Roth Spiegelman since they were two years old. In high school Margo is friends with the popular kids and Quentin is friends with the kids in the band. A few weeks before graduation Margo climbs into Quentin's window and asks for his help. He agrees and drives her around while she gets revenge on her now ex-boyfriend Jason, her former best friend Lacey and Becca who was sleeping with Jason. The next day Margo doesn't show up at school, but her presence is still there. On Saturday a detective and Margo's parents are asking Quentin when he last saw Margo. Margo has disappeared before and come back, but this time its not likely she'll come back. Quentin and his friends are able to get into Margo's room to look for clues where she could have gone. There are highlighted parts in the poem "Song to Myself" by Walt Whitman, which Quentin reads over and over to find out where Margo has gone. Eventually he finds an abandoned building where Margo stayed the few days after their late night adventure. From there they find a comment on a blog and that directs Quentin, Lacey, Ben, Radar to find a fictional town in New York where she might be. They then skip graduation, and head on a road trip to New York where they hope they will find Margo.

After the first few chapters Paper Towns seemed to be a retelling of Looking for Alaska, but as the story moved on it became its own entity. The bonds of friendship resonate throughout the whole book. John Green shows us that old friendships can waver, but if they are strong enough will not break. New friendships can be formed just by a single event, and those might work out for a long while.

T.B. 12/1/08

Sunday, November 30, 2008

DREAMRIDER by Barry Jonsberg

Michael Terny is a fat kid who has been bullied most of his life at school and by his father who expects him to don boxing shorts and gloves and fend off this grown man's jabs. Michael's behavior at school is so bizarre that he has been multiple schools in his 7th grade school year. In addition to being bullied constantly Michael witnessed the death of his mother in a car accident involving a drunk driver. Michael believes he is a lucid dreamer. When a person dreams lucidly he consciously enters his dreams ant alters the direction and outcome. It is considered a sleep disorder. What Michael is doing far surpasses lucid dreaming. It is not astral projection either though it has a feel common to the book/film called the Jumper in which a bullied kids jumps out of his body to a safe place when things get to be too much. Michael has a whole imaginary world developed complete with girlfriend, step mom, heroic abilities. Even readers don't know for sure what is real and what is not which makes this story rather creepy. At Michael's latest school a couple of compassionate and wise teachers connect with Michael and his world begins to crumble completely. Readers don't know at the end of the story what the future holds for this very disturbed kid. It would be interesting to see kids write alternative endings to this story. Its a glimpse at just how toxic/traumatic parental and peer abuse can be. JDW 12/1/08

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Moby Clique - Cara Lockwood

Bard Academy, on the outside it looks like any other private school, but on the inside it holds a secret only few students know. The teachers there are ghosts of famous writers like Sylvia Plath, Earnest Hemingway, Virgina Woolf and many more. Bard Academy is also purgatory for these writers, who have unfinished business before they move on. Miranda Tate is getting ready to go back for her Junior year at Bard Academy, but she's not going there alone. Her sister Lindsay is joining her after she drove through the window of her step-mothers store. Once they get to Bard it seems that Lindsay is still trying to wreck Miranda's life. First she's seen talking and flirting with Ryan, Miranda's ex-boyfriend. Then she becomes a follower of Parker, who is the snotty, popular, rich girl who hates Miranda and her friends. When pirates are seen around the school and a few students turn up missing including Lindsay, Miranda and her friends along with Parker and Ryan head to Whale Cove. Along the way they avoid the guards and dogs from Bard, but end up getting captured by the pirates. Miranda and everyone else then learns that Mrs. P, Sylvia Plath, is using Lindsay's power to bring the characters of Moby Dick to life because she wants to see her children again and end her time in purgatory.

The third book in the Bard Academy series, and it was just as enjoyable as the first two. I did like that Miranda's sister was brought into the mix. She was a minor character in the first two books, but she is more of a main character in this one. I also liked how Lindsay starts hanging out with the same people who Miranda wants to avoid. People want what's best for their siblings, but it's up to them do figure out how bad or good someone is, even if you tell them what you think they may not listen right away.

T.B. 11/26/08

Monday, November 24, 2008

headlong by kathe koja

Koja usually writes edgy short novella's about troubled kids. This book however could be called chick lit. It isn't her best work.
Lily Noble is daughter of a Vaughn Private School graduate and will probably be a Vaughn graduate as well. Her mother would just die if she wasn't. She has always been isolated from kids other than wealthy private school kids with all the social rules, knowing just what is expected of them. Sophomore year would be different however. Vaughn is known for its fine education of very bright kids. There are scholarship kids here. Orphan kids, kids from poor countries with good school records. Hazel, whose parents died when she was very young and has been raised by her artistic brother and his partner is one such student. Hazel has always been a public school kid with freedom to decide her own path to adulthood. The way she eats, the way she dresses, even the way she excels academically are all very different from a traditional Vaughn girl. She and Lily connect surprisingly and Lily begins to see a fascinating world she has never noticed before. Formerly friends only with girls socially like herself, she discovers other friends among other scholarship students when her friends abandon her for being friends with Hazel. I guess the girls change each other's lives forever. But in the end it seems like Hazel who is headed back to public school is just going back to her former life and Lily knows she will be staying at Vaughn and follow in her mother's footsteps so what really changed? Being chick lit there are references aplenty to trendy tote bags, clothing and so on. A disappointing read by someone who has done much better work. JDW 11/26/08

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Hunger Games by Collins

America has fallen. In its place is Pandem 12 districts kept socially, culturally and economically separate by a very controlling government. Once there were 13 districts but one was destroyed as an example, a warning to the others. Each year the Capitol demands a tribute from each district in the form of a reality show survival game involving one teen girl and one teen boy from each districts. The 24 tributes are put in an arena where they must fight until only one survives. The arena is huge filled with whatever those in charge choose, trees, fields, desert etc.
the entire game is broadcast live to all the districts - for them to watch kids killing kids, a blood bath. If things move too slowly then the arena can be manipulated. Fires can rage, droughts can occur, nights can become freezing and the days scorching, wild animal attacks can suddenly occur and so on. Bets can be placed on the players and small gifts can be sent them to help them survive if how they act pleases those watching. No one wants to care about anyone as they may eventually have to try to kill each other. Still alliances are made - and broken. And so it is that the audience is caught up in an apparent romance between the two tributes from District 12. Katniss, already a hunter and survivor is well equipped to win except for the careers. these are huge well trained individuals raised for a chance at the games who volunteer for their districts. Peeta, the bakers son has long had a crush on Katniss. We don't know how much of their romance is for the crowd and how much is real. Usually careers win. But Katniss and Peeta have a chance especially when the rules are changed. To win is to be wealthy forever and to mentor future tributes from your home districts. When the capitol announces that the rules have changed yet again and the final survivors Katniss and Peeta must fight til only one remains, when the two defy the government, we don't know how much danger they are in - they don't know how the government will get even for this affront. But both do understand that it will try. As the two arrive back home and join their waiting families and friends we still don't know it Katniss's love of Peeta was real or just a survival tactic and if she loves her long time hunting partner more or just what comes next for the two temporary heroes. I think there is a sequel coming. I hope so. As hard as it was to get into this book with this horrible government and the killing of kids its a riveting novel, I couldn't set it down. Think The Giver for older teens. Or, maybe kids who liked Patterson's Maximum ride series would go for this. Definitely recommended. JDW 11/20

Monday, November 17, 2008

Imaginary Enemy by Julie Gonzalez

Sometimes you go in a book expecting one thing and finding something else. You might feel misled and disappointing or you might be pleasantly surprised at the change. I felt all of that while reading Imaginary Enemy and can't decide how I feel about this book nominated for ALA's best book.

Jane White is a slacker and defines herself as that. She hates being called normal, but yet, she wants to fit in. This novel details the growth and maturity of Jane as she deals with figuring out her role in school, in her family and with her off the wall neighbors that she grew up with and then apart from. Amidst the ups and downs of Jane's life, she created Bubba, her imaginary enemy that she writes to in moments of frustration. She blames him for things and hopes that he can solve her problems with invisibility cream. Things for Jane start to change, though, in high school when she realizes just how cool her neighbors are. Then Bubba writes back to her, which can't possibly happen, right?

I felt a little misled by the emphasis the book title makes on her imaginary enemy. Her letters to Bubba are few and far between. At the same time, Bubba doesn't write back until the last 45 pages. So I felt a little disappointed expecting more of that intrigue, but it fell flat. The novel is also very choppy. It details Jane's life from second grade all the way to eleventh (that's a long time) and so you get snips of her experiences. I've always preferred more of a fluid, continuous story, so that detracted from my interest in the novel. However, the stories that were shared, were fun. Jane has a great personality. She's witty, sarcastic, and full of life. She really is an interesting character to follow. The other people who enter her life are also intriguing from her neighbors obsessed with sound, her gossiping sister, and, of course, the gothosaurs. Jane also tends to get in some insane scenarios, like a certain incident with bubbles, which makes her all the more lovable.

I leave reading this book a little hum-drum. I like Jane, the main focus of the novel, a lot, but I feel a little betrayed by my expectations and the format. I don't feel as though that's enough to tell people to steer clear, so I'll leave it up to the readers to decide what they think of Imaginary Enemy. Just be forewarned that this novel is more about Jane than the title character.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

You Know Where to Find Me by Rachel Cohn

Miles and Laura, first cousins, have been best friends, sisters since they were small. Over the years Laura, the extrovert, the pretty one became involved in school, had a wide circle of friends while Miles never really fit in. She was bookish, fat, abusing prescription drugs she obtained any way she could and stayed on the fringes of Laura's group. No one knew that Laura was deeply, painfully depressed except her father until her suicide, then it was too late. Miles, Bex and Jamal along with Laura's and Mile's fathers struggle with the deep pain of their loss. Each struggles in their own way. Miles sinks more and more often into the dream world pills allow her to escape into. The others watch helplessly at the same time trying to get on with their own lives, until Miles seeking the dream one more time overdoses. All of Cohn's main characters are disaffected teens, angry misfits and this book is no different. But, It is easier to understand and care about Miles and her pain than to understand the main character of Gingerbread talked about earlier. The hurt left by the suicide is painfully felt. The interrelationships among the characters were hard for me to understand but perhaps others will understand better than I did. I just think this story lacks depth that I would have appreciated. I think Cohn wraps things up to quickly. But teens who like reads short and fast may like this book. JDW11/20

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

El Hombre Que Calculaba By: Malba Tahan

This novel in Spanish is about Beremiz Samin, the Calculist man, who calculated every aspect of his life when solving a problem. His personality was usually happy, and had an ability to the max, or gift in solving numbers. Beremiz had a method in counting camels. He counted the feet, and the ears, and added one. We might say, Beremiz was a genius.

Malba Tahan was from Bagdad. He traveled to many countries visiting royal palaces of king's , or Sultan's. Sometimes Beremiz had trouble with the solution of his problems he solved. But in the end, Beremiz had resolved the problem that none managed to figure out. For instance, Beremiz the solver, most difficult problem to figure out, was life, and love.

One big problem for Beremiz was how he would be married, and with who. He wanted to marry one of the Governor"s daughters of Iran. The only big problem was that Beremiz had to guess the color of eyes of five slaves of the governor. The eyes were bandaged . Three slaves had blue eyes, and constantly lied. Beremitz did a good job job, and was able to get a wife.

Este libro es interesante para gente que le gusta Historia, y Matematica. Al principio del libro es un poco lento, pero despues al rato, el libro es informativo. El libro es para alumnos de secundaria.

LRD - 11/11/08

Impossible - Nancy Werlin

When Lucy Scarborough is seven she finds old letters in her room. Little did she know that those letters were from her mother, and would one day ten years later help her solve a curse that has plagued the women in her family for generations. Flash forward ten years and Lucy is in high school and getting ready for prom in a few days. She finds out that her next door neighbor Zack will be living with them over the summer, and that her crazy mother is hanging around school and her house. On prom night Lucy's mother starts throwing glass and plastic bottles at the house and Gray drives off. Zack takes her to prom and she meets back up with Gray. As they leave Lucy is raped by the entity possessing Gray. In a few weeks Lucy realizes that she is pregnant and also receives her mother's diary. She reads it and discovers that the Scarborough women get pregnant and go crazy by their 18th birthday. The clues to beating this curse are found in the ballad "Scarborough Fair". Lucy has to make a shirt without any seams or needlework, find an acre of land between the salt water and the sea strand, and plow the acre with a goat horn and one grain of corn. Lucy, Zack, Leo and Soledad, her foster parents, figure out how to make the seamless shirt easily. As the weeks go by it seems like the second and third tasks won't get completed, and Lucy will go crazy after she's given birth.

Love conquers all is the theme that seems to resonate with Impossible. Lucy has Leo, Soledad, and Zack to help her out with the clues, while everyone else in the Scarborough line really didn't have anyone to help figure out the clues in the ballad. We turn to family when we are in our darkest hour, and it is their strength and support that helps us through everything. Even if we think we can handel the situation by ourselves there will always be that one person there who will help no matter what.

T.B. 11/11/08

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Rogelia's House of Magic By Jaime Martinez Wood

This is a typical novel in Latin America. It happens so frequently in Hispanic household, where the grandma resides with the family. Many cases the grandmother still has beliefs of old fashion ideas, and remedies. For example many older folks believe in magic, and practice it. Some collect herbs & plants, & give them all to the Virgin of Guadalupe to see if their wishes come true. They also make wishes on tombs of their loved ones who have died.
Rogelia was the person who was a"curando" or spiritual leader, who taught the three girls one summer enough magic that they can handle. The three girls had different personalities, but were eager to learn magic. Xochitl was a quiet girl who stayed by herself. The death of her sister Graciela, affected her being that they were close friends. Fern on the other hand, was outgoing, & had a crush on Tristan, who was an American Indian, who worked in a store. Marina was a girl who took care of how she looked, & very loving with her family. She especially loved her Grand dad, who was her elder, & respected. The 3 teens could see auras on certain people. The auras were different colors depending on what person it was. This novel is a good read for middle school possibly for tenth graders, who enjoy magic, & what it all entails. The novel is worthwhile. LRD 11/09/08

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Skinned - Robin Wasserman

Lia Khan was in a terrible accident, her car got hit head on by a semi truck. Her body was badly damaged and wasn't going to live. Her parents decide to keep her alive in an artificial body and her mind is scanned and inputted into where the brain would be. When she is ready to go home her parents welcome the new Lia with open arms, her sister Zo doesn't. When Lia goes back to school she finds out the her friends are now her sister's friends, and they start turning on Lia saying that she isn't the Lia the used to know. Even her boyfriend leaves her and she is alone. She finds a friend in a boy named Auden who wants to be like her, a human inside a machine. She also goes to this group that is all people who are now inside artificial bodies. Lia decides she doesn't want to be like them and "walks away" from who and what she really is. After a few months she meets up with other mech heads, and they try to teach what it means to be mech. They can jump off cliffs into water and not get hurt, the can get shot and not die, they can go into places undetected by the bio-sensors. One day Auden falls into the river and is badly hurt. When she visits him he tells her that he can't be put into a new body because of a predisposition for mental disorder and/or decay in his brain. She then realizes that she can't go on living as a human in a machine, she is a machine with human memories.

An interesting look at what it means to be human and what humans think of machines acting like humans. A question to ask yourself is would you want to keep on living in a body that won't grow old? If you do would you want to make the decision or have your family make it for you, or would you rather die and live in the memories of your family and friends.

T.B. 11/4/08

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

Once she was Kyla, 10-year-old beloved daughter of parents living on Daisy Lane. Then she was kidnapped by Ray. He named her Alice as he had the first and dressed her in pink and white lacy clothing kept her from eating much besides yogurt to keep her small, flat chested, under 100 lbs, his little girl. He used her as he wished and punished her as his mother had punished him. Once she had tried to escape but the parents on Daisy Lane didn't deserve to die and he promised they would if she disobeyed. Who would she go to anyway, who would believe her? The time came when the little girl became too tall, that was when she was fifteen as it had with the first Alice. Unlike the first Alice who was found floating face down near the place she was kidnapped, he promised to keep her. She must pick a pretty little girl to replace her however, a little girl to dress in pink and white lace, for him to use as he wished. He picked a park where children play for Alice to pick his next prey. He did not count on there being Jason, living dead boy, broken inside, drug user, pusher. Jason watched over his little sister, chosen prey. Jason was determined to love Alice and be loved by her and protect her and he did though the end did not come as readers will want it to come. This story is written from Kyla/Alice's view point. She reruns and reruns in her mind what her life has been like since Ray took her much as a grieving child reruns his/her loss when someone close passes. With each rerun the reader learns a little more about her brutal life. This is not an easy story to read both because of the repetitions and because of the subject matter. Perhaps something this horrific could be happening right now to a child who vanished from quiet street, some good home. This is a very short fast read for anyone willing to live through Kyla/Alice's experience. JDW 11/2/08

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

Everyone has secrets and some are more devastating than others. With those big, gut wrenching secrets, it's nice to have someone to confide in. The trouble comes, though, when someone starts threatening you with that deep, dark past.

Alison was best friends with Spencer, Aria, Hanna, and Emily. That is, of course, until the seventh grade when she suddenly disappeared. Now juniors in high school, the four remaining girls have grown apart and have started to live lives that they'd probably like to keep secret. Spencer realizes that she has a major crush on her snotty sister's boyfriend, Aria has fallen in love with a young English teacher, Hanna is stealing and dealing with image issues, and Emily might be falling in love with the new girl in town. As the girls struggle with these problems, all begin to receive messages from someone named A, referring to things they'd only shared with Alison. Could she have returned even though many believed her to be dead? If it wasn't Alison, then who could be contacting them? What would it mean if their secrets were revealed? Soon everything starts to unravel and the girls struggle to make sense of everything happening in their lives.

When I picked up this book, mainly to find out what all the hype was about, I expected to read a shallow, prep school, high society novel. It turns out, though, that this book has so much more to offer. Yes, these girls go to a ritzy school and shop at places like Tiffany's and yes, there's drinking and some sex, but this novel has so much more going on than just boyfriend stealing and backstabbing. Each character is developed and has her own complex story and struggles. I'll admit that it takes a little while to develop each character, but the wait is worth it. No one is more important than the other. At the same time, each story is different and, in a way, something the reader can relate to. That's not to say everyone is sleeping with their teacher, but I feel like these characters speak to complicated world some teens face. Then, besides the great struggles of each character, this novel has this amazing umbrella conflict of who A is and what does she want. On top of that, there's some "Jenna Thing" that haunts all four girls. The suspense and interesting story lines really makes this novel stand out.

So much about this book has me enthralled, but I think most of it comes from the fact that it didn't turn out like I expected. I like the characters and it has me intrigued to find out what happens. This novel is a great draw-in to a new series.

Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn

Cyd is a mad at the world, at her mother, at her "real" daddy skips school, out of control wild child. she claims to not really know why. She is daddy's special girl. Her younger sibs are cute and fun to watch, her mom not so bad. She throws herself at any guy she considers a hunk that is older than she and willing. There are teens like this, totally contrary. I find them unbearable not funny as the reviews say. Plus, even though the story is a quick read and probably something other disenfranchised teens could relate to - they would never accept my or any other adult's recommendation so this has to be discovered and passed around among themselves.
When Cyd makes everyone's life unbearable after she is grounded for skipping school, staying out too late, sneaking out of the house... she is shipped off to her biological father which is just what she wants. In her time there, she suddenly grows up, stops raging, reconciles with her mother, solves the problem with skipping school, decides on her future, decides not to hit on any more older guys, based on...not sure what. The wrap up is way to fast and shallow for the rest of the book. I will say this, Cyd got herself "in trouble" with her wild behavior while away at boarding school. She took care of the problem without help from mom or real dad, without their even knowing. Both the abortion and her lack of information about her biological dad seem to be keys to her behavior. Oh, throughout the book she relates to a ragdoll she calls gingerbread as if it is a living friend. I have seen this before in real life but the kid was emotionally disturbed and unable, not unwilling to relate to the non-imaginary world. jdw 10/29/08

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Day I Killed James by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Have you ever blamed yourself for something you had no control over? Or punished yourself even though you've already been forgiven? This novel explores the guilt we place upon ourselves and the struggle to forgive the one who means the most.

James was in love with his next door neighbor Theresa but she didn't feel the same way about him. When her boyfriend takes another girl to a party they had both been invited to, she uses James' affections to get back at her boyfriend. When her plan succeeds and her boyfriend returns to her, a heartbroken James rides his motorcycle off a cliff, killing himself. Theresa, however, blames herself for his death because he wouldn't have died if she hadn't been so careless with his heart. Unable to cope with his death, she runs away and tried to re-invent herself, but he still haunts over her. She changes her name, becoming Annie Stewart (her middle name and James' last name). Then, she meets a young girl who struggles with a neglectful mother and turns to Theresa for help. One night, when Theresa was elsewhere and unable to protect her, the girl accidentally killed her brother, thinking he was breaking into their home. Theresa then realizes she couldn't keep running from her troubles and returns home. The girl shows up on her doorstep a few days later with no place else to go and the two work together to forgive their toughest critic - themselves.

This book has a great message but failed in the execution. It starts off very fragmented between Theresa's journal entries and sections of events leading up to James' death, although, based on the journal entries, he's already dead. It wasn't hard to follow, it was hard to get invested. Once you made it past the first part and she reinvented herself, the story became more interesting. At some points, though, you just wanted to smack Theresa and tell her to get over it. I think that's part of the guilt, though. No one else understands how she feels, so everyone thinks she's just being irrational. The girl she meets is a great addition because she's the anchor and dose of reality that Theresa needs. She helps her heal and, in the end, the road to recovery is almost complete.

This novel has a really strong message about forgiveness and realizing that there are bigger things at work in the universe besides ourselves. The story grows in strength, but you have to struggle past the first half to realize the power behind the story.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lily Dale Awakening - Wendy Corsi Staub

Calla was all set to spend part of her summer in California with her mom and dad at a beach house, but all that has changed when her mother dies in what seems to be one of those random house accidents. It is decided that she will go and spend the rest of the summer with her grandmother in Lily Dale. Lily Dale is a town of psychics, which includes Calla's grandmother. People come from near and far to see if they can contact family members who have passed on. From her first steps in Lily Dale she sees spirits on a daily basis. She also has a recurring dream about dredging the lake to find the truth, which she has no clue what it means. She is seeing the ghost of a girl who was kidnapped six months ago and whose mother came to Lily Dale to see if someone could make contact with her. Calla figures out where the girl ended up dead and helps the girl's mother find peace.

This book was o.k., and it did hold my interest. It seemed to be more of an expository book to introduce the setting and place of the series. I would have liked more of plot in the book. I hope the next book is more plot driven than expository.

T.B. 10-14-08

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Whale Talk By:Chris Crutcher

Chris Crutcher has a good grasp, and know how for teens. He spent 5 years as the Director of an alternative school K-twelfth grade in Oakland, California. This is a School that helps troubled teens make it through High School. Crutcher has received many outstanding honors for his novels.

This novel basically, has to do with a High School swim team, and all their adventures during training, and competing for trophies. The irony of Cutler High is that the High School had no swimming pool, so the teens had no where to practice in the water.

The bus that transported the swimming team, became the spot or place, where the boy's slowly began to open up to each other, and talk, and get to know each other better. Of course Cutler High Swim Team, at the start, does not excel, but improves slowly. The team trains very hard, and in the end of the season becomes a champion. In fact, the Cutler High Swimming Team trains ardently on land doing the motions of swimming strokes.
I myself have been on a swim team, so I know how important training is. I never received a gold medal, I only earned bronze medals.
This novel to me is super interesting. It shows courage, and endurance to teens. I recommend this novel to teens interested in sports.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sucks to be me - Kimberly Pauley

Mina, named after the character in Bram Stoker's Dracula, has always known her parents were vampires. She is almost 17 and her parents spring it on her that she has only a few weeks to decide if she wants to become a vampire or not. She meets with Ms. Riley, the Northwest Regional Vampire Council new member indoctrinator, who tells her that she's got to attend vampire classes and that her Uncle Mortie is her sponsor. If she chooses not to turn her memory is wiped of vampire knowledge and she's taken away from her parents. On top of all that she is studying Dracula in English class, where her teacher dresses up as a different character each day, and she is hanging out with Nathan, who she's had a crush on since kindergarten. Mina wants to tell Serena, her best friend, but humans aren't supposed to know about vampires. She only has her fellow candidates along with her family to talk to about being a vampire. The vampire classes are boring, but there is a cute guy, Aubrey, who makes Mina want to attend them just to see him. As she learns more about vampires Mina starts to make up her mind about whether to turn or not. Prom is also in a few weeks and she wants to go with Nathan, but he wants to go with Serena. George her classmate and fellow vampire candidate, wants to ask Serena, but ends up asking Mina after Nathan asks Serena to the prom. I'm guessing your wondering if Mina turns into a vampire or not, well I'm not going to spoil the ending for you. You'll just have to read and find out.

I loved this book. It was funny, entertaining, and I couldn't put it down. The whole concept of going to vampire classes and deciding if you want to become a vampire or not is not something you read in most vampire novels that have come out in the last few years. Add in going to school, getting ready for and going to Prom, not being able to tell your best friend that you might turn into vampire in a few weeks, along with finding the one you want to be with adds up to a great and funny book.

T.B. 10/11/08

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Crazy in Love by Dandi Daley Mackall

Do you ever feel like you suffer from split personality or hear voices in your head or have a little devil and angel sitting on your shoulder? This book explores the inner conflict that many people have, especially when it comes to the opposite sex.

Mary Jane has two voices in her head: Plain Jane who insists she's nothing spectacular and no one will ever be interested in her, and M.J. who believes she's sexy and worth having. These two voices try to help Mary Jane figure out what to do in the dilemma known as Jackson House. Jackson is dating Mary Jane's two-faced "friend," Star, but now everyone thinks there's something going on between him and Mary Jane. This rumor all stems from the fact that they spent four minutes alone together on a trip for more pop during a friend gathering. Soon Star's spreading rumors and Mary Jane's getting incessant phone calls from boys wanting "a good time," which leads to everyone in school hating her. To make matters worse, Jackson really does like her and the two of them start kissing in his car late at night. According to Plain Jane he couldn't possibly be genuinely interested in her, but M.J. is going crazy with the excitement of where this all could lead. Eventually he chooses Mary Jane and the two start an intense relationship that causes her to question just how far she'll go, especially when a "friend" tells her that Star expects Jackson back when he doesn't get what he wants out of Mary Jane. Is she willing to do it despite her Abstinence in Action pact like her friend Alicia, or will she hold out?

I think this book is an essential read for girls getting into relationships. While much of this book revolves around whether or not she should pursue anything with Jackson, especially with Star lurking around, the subtext of becoming sexually involved is what really makes this novel stand out. Before the world of Jackson for Mary Jane and the world of college for Alicia, the girls made a pact with another friend (Red) known as AIA (Abstinence in Action). They decided to stay virgins until they meet their one true love. For Alicia, that came in the form of Colt who she met in college and she decides to leave AIA for him. Mary Jane now struggles to decide whether or not Jackson is her one. While Alicia is more or less saying "go for it" just like M.J. would, her friend Red emphasises waiting to marriage like she's doing with her longtime boyfriend Alex (Red represents Plain Jane.) This becomes the ultimate struggle that teens face in this overly sexed society and I felt as though this book did a good job of addressing it without being over the top. The reader isn't bogged down with horror stories of what can happen, although there is the casual mention of pregnancy and STDs. At the same time, it isn't encouraging with the mantra that "everyone's doing it." The end of the novel does a good job of representing the emotions felt when "the one" doesn't feel the same way (something hormonal people tend to forget to consider) and describing the awkward conversation of "Will we or won't we tonight."

I enjoyed this novel. I liked the approach to the topic of sex that overpowers certain books. This one has a good message and, overall, just urges us to listen to those voices that we hear because each one presents a side of the argument that we need to hear.

blackbox by Julie Schumacher

The title refers both to the sense that someone suffering from depression is in a black box and also to the boxed warnings on anti-depression drugs. Elena's world changes dramatically when her sister is hospitalized with severe depression. Her parents believe in keeping it a secret. this is a secret that everyone already knows and places Elena in a hard spot. Dora asks Elena to rescue her from her situation which Elena believes means both the depression and the hospital.
The sadness, shame, helplessness sense of responsibility are heavy burdens for Elena to bear. Although Dora is older, Elena has always been the steady one who watched out for her sister. Jimmy, an odd kid who has failed at least one grade reaches out to Elena, befriended her, tried to help her while keeping his own secrets. The climax of the story Elena and Jimmy searching Dora's room after Dora returns home and find a stash of drugs Dora has hidden and discover that Dora is skipping most of her classes. After, Dora tries to commit suicide and Jimmy tells his whole story and Dora perhaps gets the real help she needs. Elena perhaps can begin to set aside concerns for Dora and live her own life but nothing is for certain in this heartbreaking story which is as it should be.
JDW 10/8/08

Lush by Natasha Friend

Friend has two other books Perfect and Bounce that teen girls have discovered for themselves and pass around among friends. Books that teens recommend to each other are the best of the best even if those giving awards don't think so. Finally, I've gotten around to finding out what the attraction to Friend's books is. They're problem novels. This one is about being a teen with an alcoholic parent. But, that's not the attraction to these books, at least I don't think so.

In this book eighth grader Sam is one of a group of four close friends. They do sleep-overs and whisper about unmentionable topics. Sam is a fairly ordinary kid as most kids are. She says 8Th grade boys are jerks (they are) and misses friendships with boys before they became jerks. She locks herself in the bathroom and assesses her looks. She tries a little make-up. She makes herself weird popcorn treats for comfort food. She experiences her first kiss and her first teen party. She makes mistakes, some really bad and apologizes and matures a little. Her father drinks and is in denial at least until four-year-old Luke is hurt by a flying bottle. Sam worries about her parents and Luke and seeks help via letters left in a library book. Who replies and the friendship that develops is really cool. Sam's feelings toward her father and the resolution of this book are very natural. The story has a very real feel to it. Sam is every teen girl, brave, vulnerable, imperfect, very likable. It was a relief for me not to be reading about blond cheerleaders, name brand "everything", mean girls, cliques, current popular teen fare. Yeah I see why kids like Friend. Yes I recommend her books.
JDW 10/8/08

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Blue is for Nightmares by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Last year I read another book by Laurie Faria Stolarz known as Project 17 (October 2007) and felt she did an excellent job with a continued level of suspense. Blue is for Nightmare, which is the beginning of an older series, is another example of how Stolarz creates an enjoyable mystery.

Stacey, a practicing witch, is a junior at a boarding school with an overall normal life besides terrifying nightmares that cause her to wet the bed. What's worse than the bed wetting, however, is the fact that she keeps having dreams about someone trying to hurt/kill her roommate/best friend Drea. After dream spells fail to provide further insight and a card reading confirms the immenent danger/death of Drea, Stacey fights to save her friend, especially since Stacey had been unable to save another friend years ago. Things become complicated by the fact that Drea keeps getting creepy phone calls from a man and then a package of white lillies (the flower for death) shows up with a threatening message. When another student encounters similar situations, Stacey knows this is no game and the stakes are exteremly high. Will she save her friend in time? Or will she have to live with another failure?

Although I'm not a big wiccan fan, this was an extremely enjoyable novel. Stacey only does spells when absolutely necessary and it added to the novel because the magic wasn't crammed down your throat. There were no bubbling cauldrons or apparitions from the beyond. It was very basic and I liked that. In reality, you could probably take away all of the magic (do premonitions really count as magic?) and still have a great novel. The suspense worked throughout, never being overdone or underdeveloped. Once again Stolarz created the perfect balance. I wouldn't say that the killer was obvious but if you really put the extra thought in it and consider the main suspects, it doesn't come as too big of a surprise. But, then again, even the story says after the fact that, "No one seemed suprised it was *** stalking Drea" (277). Does that detract from the story? Not at all! If you go along for the ride, it's definitely worth the trip.

Blue is for Nightmares is a book worth reading if you like mysteries, suspense, and a little supernatural activity. Even if you're not a big fan of witches and spells, this novel is enjoyable. I know that I look forward to reading the other three books in the series.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Up High in Trees by kiara brinkman

The unthinkable has happened to Sebby and his family. We learn exactly what through Sebby's letters to his trusted teacher. As Sebby struggles to feel secure once more in his dramatically changed world, his father spirals downward into depression. This easy to read story is heartbreaking yet hopeful. Its a great read for anyone who feels compassion for others and for those who have themselves suffered unthinkable tragedy.
JDW 10/4/08

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Boy Heaven by Laura Kasischke

This book, while vague in its synopsis and recommended with such comments as "...an eerie sense of apprehension that the pages keep turning" (SJL) and "...a genuine shock of an ending" (Joyce Carol Oates), turned out to be extremely disappointing. In my opinion, there was very little, if any, suspense.

Kristy and her two friends sneak out from their cheerleading camp and decide to take a trip to a nearby lake that claims to be the deepest in the state. When they stop for gas, they eye a pair of boys gawking at them and Kristy, in her kind nature, smiles at them. Next thing they know, the boys are spotted following them to the lake. After changing their minds and going back to camp, the girls decide to flash the boys as they drive past them. Her one friend (a red-headed Kristi) suddenly stops eating and proclaims that she's seen the guys staring at her and talking through the screen of the cabin. Her other friend (Desiree) claims to have also seen the boys and that they watched her have sex in the woods before left her a threatening note on her cot. Kristy, though, doesn't believe any of this. After sneaking out with Desiree and her boyfriend, they stumble upon the truth about the boys, which is not what you'd expect.

This book had a lot of potential, but fell through on its delivery. The author, a poet, writes too poetically. For me there presence of similes and metaphors became overpowering and overly annoying. To be honest, the description drove me crazy! It really detracted from the story and I found myself skimming a lot of the novel (something I rarely, if EVER do!) The author also included a lot of back information about the narrator as she remembers trips with her parents or some boy's obsession with her or a chapter about the narrator's evaluations of cops and self defense. Those parts had no relevance to the story. They just dragged it out. The suspense was very sporadic and unimpressive. All of the threatening parts happened to people other than the narrator. If it's from her point of view, she should have been the one seeing the boys in the woods, not someone else. If she doesn't believe the other people, how is she going to be scared? If we're supposed to feel threatened as the readers, we're going to pick up on the emotions of the narrator and if she's not scared, how are we supposed to be terrified? That disconnect weakened the affect of the novel. I kept holding out that the "shock of an ending" would redeem the novel, but it did little for me.

This novel was a huge letdown. It wasn't scary and the description slowed everything down. For a novel that had a lot of potential, it was just so disappointing to read it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Defect by Will Weaver

"In other words, his defect was a gift," she adds (37). Can a birth defect ever be considered a gift? This novel addresses the struggle of one teen and his acceptance of his extreme defect.

David has a hard time being accepted due to his strange smell and facial abnormalities that cause people to stare. Those faults aren't his real defect, though. David has wings. Under his arms he has extra skin that fans out into wings. After a trick he plays on some bullies where he leads them to believe he jumped off a cliff (in reality he flew off it, but they didn't see), David gets sent to an alternative school where kids who don't fit in go. This, while a hassle at first, turns out to be a good thing when he befriends a girl named Cheetah who suffers seizures. After being spotted soaring the night by two teens soaring, David feels his life fall into chaos. His secret is discovered and he faces the tough decision of whether or not to undergo an "Extreme Makeover" and become normal. In deciding, David meets a young boy who's dying last wish is to see proof of god. Could David, the "injured angel," be the answer? Could his defect actually be a gift?

This novel does a goes a decent job exploring the challenge many people face of accepting themselves. David sees his wings, at times, as a hindrance to his success in the world. He has trouble making friends and fitting in. Come the end, when he's given an easy way out, he's forced to evaluate his place in the world. Did God make him that way on purpose and, if so, what is it? There are slight religious undertones but it is very subtle. One thing teeny tiny detail that I noticed and felt slightly bothered by (because I'm overly curious and looked it up) is that the author called his defect Icthyosis vulgaris, which, when Googled, comes up as : Ichthyosis vulgaris with an extra "h." This disease is basically dry, scaly skin, not wings or extra skin. This just struck me as off because, in my opinion, it made the book lose a bit of credibility. Teens are curious and I'm sure someone else is going to look it up to see a real picture of someone with wings and be horribly disappointed.

This book was a good read. While David has an extreme case of accepting yourself, the undertones of his story are ones that many people can relate to.


Appetite for Detention by Sloane Tanen

When you think about young adult books, picture books don't often spring to mind. Appetite for Detention, though, is one hilarious picture book that teens will relate to.

Told through photographs of pipe cleaner chicks, this book details the experiences of eight birds trying to fit into high school. There's Helen, who deals with fitting in due to her weight. Then there's Joey struggling with homosexuality and his crush on Tobey who's dating Caitlin, the pink but stuck up bombshell. Marissa, Caitlin's friend, just wants to be poplar and can't stand the fact that Caitlin has all the success. Besides these five birds, there's also Annalise who dreams only of Harvard, Edgar who just wants to survive, and Andrew who wants people to show up for his Bar Mitzvah. Overall, it's just another day in high school for these little birds.

This book is hilarious. The pictures alone are enough for a good laugh. Obviously a quick read, this book should be viewed because if these little fluffy creatures can survive the scary world of high school, so can the rest of us.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Triskellion - Will Peterson

Triskellion, an ancient celtic symbol of 3 intersecting circles connected by another circle, is also the place where Rachel and Adam's mother is from. They are sent there after their parents divorce to stay with their grandmother. Upon their arrival they notice how strange the people are and the whispers behind their backs. Rachel also is having dreams of two people, a guy and a girl, from a long time ago, and the girl looks a lot like her. Only one man Jacob Honeyman, the local bee keeper, talks to them and tells them about the history of the town. He also talks about the gold Triskellion which is supposed to be hidden in 3 pieces in the town. Rachel and Adam along with Gabriel, the kid who can dissappear at a moments notice, start looking around for the pieces. Adam finds one piece beneth a yew tree in the forest, another piece is in the church, and the third piece is in a tomb which is unearthed by the telvision show Treasure Hunters. What will happen when all three pieces are put together? Whats the connection between the people found in the tomb and Rachels dreams? Why does Gabriel keep dissappearing, is there more to him than meets the eye?

T.B. 9/16/08

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ten Mile River By Paul Griffin

The two main personalities are Jose, and Ray who live in an abandoned station house where they do not have the bear necessities . They are two teenagers always running from the Police for this or that. In fact, one of their jobs in New York City is breaking windows on luxurious cars like Cadillacs , and being paid cash from the garage owner that replaces the windows in the neighborhood . The owner of the garage is Mr. Joey . He is a father figure to the teens. The two teens are always up to mischief. They are trying to get cash for food, and clothing to exist in life . Their place of abode is dirty being that they collect stray dogs that live with them as their equals. The teens sleep with them at night one of the strays is blind, and old.

The teens go to a beauty parlor where they are treated like kings. It is close to where they live. Another adventure was the teens stole a Mercury Lincoln Navigator, and drove it to Joe's Garage, where Joe gave them money for the car. The beauty Parlor was owned by Yolie, and her cousin Trini. The younger beautician is friendly with both teens . She has a crush on Jose which leads us to be a very friendly relationship. Many times Ray and Jose have a cooked meal done by the beautician owners.

The two teen boys had to quit schooling because their presence in the public view would
would put attention on them. Police then could put them in jail for anything.

One night, there was a door knock on the front door, and Ray went in a different directions.
The Police shot at Ray seriously, and he could barley walk. Jose escaped, and kept running.
The novel is so good it is hard to put down. Read the novel & I am sure you will like.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Bottle in The Gaza Sea By: Valerie Zenatti

This author of the Novel is French descent, and still resides in Paris. I loved this book, because it shows how a male, who is Palestinian, and a Israeli young girl become fond of each other through a bottle thrown into the Gaza Sea with a message.

The Jewish girl called Tal, and the Palestinian man called Gazaman begin an E-mail correspondence, which Tal the Israeli or Jewish girl, sends him by way of E-mail to Gazaman. This worries the Palestinian, so Gazaman does not want to use the Internet Cafe's for security
reasons for sending his E-mails to a Jewish young girl.
Tal's Dad lends her a movie camera to photograph on the spot events happening in Jerusalem.
She actually takes a bus that was bomb, and gets hurt. She ends up in a Hospital. She turns out to be o.k., and leaves the Hospital. The Jewish girl is 17, and Tal has no clue of the Palestinian age. The Novel has many intrigues and excitements. The ending is surprising, but good. Read the novel, and find out more.
LRD 9/13/08

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where People Like Us Live by Patricia Cumbie

Anyone who has ever tried to do the right thing and failed, anyone who did the right thing and suffered for it will appreciate this story. Libby will be starting high school in the fall. Her family has moved yet again and she tries to make friends. Her brother and sister handle starting over differently. Daddy seems to be repeating past mistakes. Life is hard. Then she meets Angie who paints a flaming horse for her and takes her to the railroad tracks to walk, talk, escape. As she gets to know Angie she also grows to understand that something is badly wrong and finally does what she believes is right. She shares her suspicions with her mother. Mom contacts the authorities and someone might go to jail for it. Angie might loose her mom to alcohol. These words from the story say it all: what Kevin was doing wasn't love. It was spoiling the idea of love. You're my friend, Angie. That means something to me. I couldn't let that keep happening to you. Libby loses her new friend over the telling of the secret but I think gains something too. This is a quiet sad story without a happy ending that some readers may find not exciting enough, not enough action. But others will appreciate the growing understand of the importance of family.
JDW 9/11/08

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fish by T.J. Parsell

We've all heard the stories about what happens in prison, but have we ever really stopped to think about the effect it has on the prisoner, especially a teen. T.J. (Tim) Parsell doesn't hold back as he details his time spent in prison that led him to become an activist against prisoner rape.

When he was 17 years old, he got sent to prison for robbing a Fotomat with a toy gun and breaking probation in a previous incident. When he made it through classification and ended up at Riverside, he didn't think it'd be that bad, especially after being befriended by an older inmate. That, though, was all a ploy to get him drunk, drugged, and then gang-rape. After barely surviving that, Tim was handed over to an inmate known as Slide Step who won him in a coin toss. From that point on he was protected, which was good, but his protection came at a cost - he had to perform sexual favors to Slide Step whenever asked. But Slide Step was good to him, at least compared to others, so he could accept his fate, especially when he considered his questionable sexuality. Life, though, wasn't that easy and he was soon transferred to a different location where he had to find another "man" or protector and not all of them were as gentle and considerate as Slide Step. Being young, gay, and relatively attractive made Time an easy target and he was still a young fish unable to defend himself. A new inmate, though, brought Tim some hope. Paul knew of Tim from Riverside and had been in a similar position. Paul was also gay and the two bonded, fell in love. Paul taught Tim things he needed to survive, tools that would help him when the harsh reality of prison tore them apart. In the meantime, Tim worked at bettering himself. He got an education and helped set up a prison newspaper. With the help of Paul and others who honestly cared like Miss Bain, he began to learn how to beat the Man (aka the system).

This book is a harsh dose of reality. Parsell does an excellent job putting it all out there without detaching reality. You honestly feel for him and watch him struggle not just with the system, but also with himself. While he's well aware of the fact that he doesn't enjoy the rape, he's also dealing with questions of his own sexuality, something that he tries to use in his favor. He's constantly trying to convince himself that because he's gay, some of it's okay. I think part of that gives the book an interesting twist. How would the book/situations be different if he weren't gay? While you can't change who he is, that's just a thought I had while reading. Would it be harder to accept the life? At the same time, his experience happened in that 70's; how have things changes since then? It'd be interesting to see another perspective on the situation (not that I imagine it'll be much different). That thought completely aside, sex takes up a major part of the novel. There's both consensual, semi-consensual (as in between the man and his boy) and rape. With that level of exposure, this novel is definitely for maturer audiences. While the reader goes in expecting it, it still takes you by surprise. The novel is also very informative. In a morbid sense, it's almost a novel kids heading to prison should read because it details a lot about the deals of prison life, and not just the sexual aspect of it. There's a lot of "insider information."

Tim is a strong and powerful person. He discovers a lot about himself and who he can be through this novel. The memoir is written wonderfully. I'm not a big non-fiction reader, but I couldn't put the book down; I needed to see him survive. I was on this journey with him and as bumpy as the road got at times, I was happy to experience it. His story needed to be told and I don't imagine it being done better. This book is definitely worth reading, but be forewarned that it won't be easy at times. Also, be sure to watch the fish at the end of the chapters. I didn't notice it at the end and I think it's very symbolic. I wish I'd known sooner.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Airhead by Meg Cabot

In this new series by Princess Diaries author Meg Cabot, a tomboy gets transplanted into the body of a supermodel. The template isn't all that original, and, while it was a good read, I'm not sure if it will really last as a series.

Em Watts couldn't care less about the world of models or the lives of the "Walking Dead" as she calls the social, school spirit obsessed students at TAHS. All that mattered to her was her best friend Christopher and playing computer games. That all changes, though, when a hanging TV lands on her. She wakes up and everything is different because her body is now that of Nikki Taylor, the world's youngest and hottest supermodel. Now, thanks to a two million dollar contract with Stark Enterprises, Em has to live Nikki's life, upholding all of her modeling obligations and dealing with her boy troubles that include a moody boyfriend, an affair with her best friend's boyfriend, and a musician with a crush on her. None of that matters to Em, though, because her former best friend (whom she realizes she loves) thinks she's dead and won't give the new her the time of day. Will she ever make sense of this new life she's living, or will she fall flat on her picture-perfect face?

Thanks to Freaky Friday, the idea of living in someone else's body is not that new. While this scenario is a little bit more sophisticated than a spirit transfer, the dilemma facing Em isn't all that different, especially since she goes from being unnoticeable to beautiful. Part of that bothers my bitter brain because it emphasizes the belief that, as the cover of the book states, "It's what's outside that matters. No one cares what's inside." With the insecurities of teens, I don't really think this is something we need to be encouraging. Would it have been too cliche to have supermodel Nikki be transplanted into "ugly" Em's body? We don't need to prove the already known fact that the world is superficial. But, then again, this is just a teen book, so maybe I'm giving it too much credit for perpetuating the world's stereotypes. Just the same, that small point bothers me. The book, though, was enjoyable to read. Em has a great personality that contrasts with the new world she's been placed in. Lulu, Nikki's best friend, is a wonderful secondary character who proves she's more than just a ditz. The only problem is that it's the first book in a series and I don't know if it'll really last. This concept could have very easily been handled in one book. I know Cabot is trying to make it more complex with this theory that Stark Enterprises is spying on Nikki, but I think that there's a big risk that the next novel (or novels depending on how many she plans) will just become a pity party for Em who isn't getting the attention she wants from Christopher. I see the story getting old very fast. But, then again, I don't know what Cabot has in store for the sequel.

I'm sure the fans of Cabot will love this new novel. It is an enjoyable novel and does suck you into the prospect of a sequel since nothing is solved. What the sequel provides, though, simply leaves me wondering if two books is too much.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Death by Bikini by Linda Gerber

While the title may lead you to believe that this novel centers around a murder involving a bikini, that is not the focus, although such a murder does occur. The novel was a nice and easy little mystery, even if certain things are a bit obvious even if the author tries to lead you to think otherwise.

Aphra has a life that most people would envy, living on a secluded island that famous people use as a hideaway, yet she misses the things most people take for granted. Soon the mysterious Smith family unexpectedly arrives, turning her easy-going father into agitated nervous-wreck. When he won't tell her anything about the family and she starts bonding with the teenage son Adam, it's time for her to uncover what's so mysterious about them, which includes a fatal car accident and fake names. After a girl is killed with her bikini, Aphra realizes that the family is dangerous. Then, the threatening Mr. Watts arrives and, before long, Aphra doesn't know who to trust and she's being shot at. In a life and death struggle, Aphra tries to make sense of everything happening on her once quiet and safe island.

The novel was enjoyable in a simple thriller way. In the sense that everything that happens is connected, it's interesting to figure out where things are going. For example, why would she be talking about poisonous plants if such plants don't reappear later in the novel? In a similar fashion, with a limited number of characters and the obvious plot device of a red herring (a false lead/suspect) it was a little obvious who the ends up chasing Aphra through the jungle. This, though, didn't detract from the novel. The author does a good job of making the story flow and held my attention.

The novel definitely invites you in for the sequel and I think this one is worth the a shot if you like mysteries. Not entirely serious at all times (definitely more serious than Bad Kitty) the book was enjoyable because it meets one's needs for a thriller and a sense of seriousness while still keeping things light.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

the center of the world by steinhofel

Phil and twin sister Diann live in a big sprawling house on the edge of a small town with their single mother. They came to Germany from America when quite small. Mom provided for them by working first part-time then full time for a lawyer in a nearby big city. She also provided advice on dating and mating and herbal remedies. The combination of weird house, herbal remedies and not living in the town gets the family labeled witches. The school in town is pretty typical of every school - with bullies and cliques and so on. Diann and Phil do not fit in at all. Mom has her own life to live and is content to watch at a distance as her children learn to handle bullies, experience various friendships and hardships. She is there if they need her but stays out of their way. Since Diann is very sensitive, almost reclusive we do not get to know her well. But Phil is the narrator and it is through his experiences that we learn about the family and watch Phil grow. Mom has a series of boyfriends, some involved with the kids, some not. This serves to further alienate her from the town folks. The twins do want to know about their American father but mom isn't talking. Diann and Phil make and lose close friends - others who do not fit in well. Phil who has been a "fairy" since a small child grows to learn what being homosexual means without having to go through much of the torment many gay kids suffer. His mother knew all along and said so be it. How wonderful to be accepted by a wise parent who knew exactly who you were. Phil deftly handles school bullies, wish I had had his abilities. Phil also learns what it means to love and be loved. The pace is slow and steady. The language lovely. Teens who enjoyed James Howe's book Totally Joe will enjoy this as well. Anyone who ever thought the world revolved around them, anyone who has ever had trouble fitting in or has thought they found true love could enjoy this fine story. JDW 9/2/08

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Firestorm (Caretaker #1) Whirlwind (Caretaker#2) by klass

From the distant future in which earth's environment has been completely destroyed by greedy people comes a beacon of hope. A child has been sent back in time and raised by foster parents until his teen years when he is discovered by those who would have him dead and keep earth's resources for themselves. He flees with little knowledge of his foes or his purpose. Jake meets up with Eko a teenager sent back in time to be his trainer and ultimately his future mate with whom he will repopulate earth if they manage to save it. In addition there is Gisko, a dog who has inside information about what is going on, protects and guides Jake to a certain extent and is a wonderful, intelligent, curmudgeonly canine companion. Jake's first mission is to keep a certain creep from destroying the last pristine coral reef in the ocean. The actions of the first book spawn problems which must be cared for in the second. In this story, Jake and company are preventing total destruction of the South American RainForests. There will be a third book presumably action will be needed as the result of the actions of the second book. The action is fast paced. The characters are well drawn and likeable. I found myself pulling for even some of the minor ones. Jake is torn between two lovers and both relationships are quite sensual. The descriptions of ocean reefs and rainforests lush, intriguing. But, I found I couldn't look at this story too closely without finding many faults. Gisko, the dog explains away discrepancies and difficulties just as I began to wonder "how could that be?" The baddies are really powerful and destructive and truly I do not see what really they hope to accomplish. Once the earth is totally destroyed - are not their lives without purpose too? Jake has a watch and a necklace from his mother that appear to hold powers and come to life just in the nick of time but Jake is very incurious about them, doesn't try to use them in times of needs or figure out how they work. He just notices they suddenly start shining. Eko and Gisko suddenly wink in and out of existence weirdly. There is a gap between end of first book and beginning of second only partially explained. Stories like this, like MacHale's Pendragon series, like Patterson's Maximum Ride series are usually read by 5th-7th graders but the sensual romance pretty much eliminates that audience so I'm not sure who I would recommend it to. I guess I would say this is a fast paced entertaining read for 8th through 10th graders, just don't think too hard.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tamar by Peet

England 1995
An elderly man put his ailing wife in a nursing home and committed suicide. He left behind a box of clues for 15-year-old Tamar to follow. What is missing is the old man's past while in Holland during WWII and Tamar's father who left many years ago without explanation.

In the box are maps of the river Tamar is named for and memorabilia from Holland 1944-1945. Tamar follows the maps with the help of a distant "cousin" for whom she has romantic inclinations.

Readers follow Tamar as well as the story of two resistance workers, undercover in Holland who loved the same woman and tried to help the Dutch win against the Nazi's.

At the end of her journey Tamar learns the tragic truth she could never have imagined.

Part love story and part historical fiction this is a wonderful fast paced story.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Smiles to Go by Jerry Spinelli

When Will learns that protons can die (protons were previously believed indestructible) his whole world changes and he begins to wonder what the future holds now that nothing is certain. This book starts off rather unimpressive, but pretty soon it changes and I feel as though the reader walks off with something important come the end of the novel.

Will's life was pretty set: annoying sister Tabby, Monopoly on Saturdays when Mi-Su and he take turns ordering pizza and BT always loses, and skateboarding on Black Viper. On the day that he learns protons die, he knows that everything will be different. When he catches Mi-Su kissing BT the night of the Star Party, he's certain that his prediction is true. Soon he's insanely jealous and desperate to kiss Mi-Su himself, which he does and then he's driven crazy not knowing how she feels. Nothing seems to be going his way until his chess tournament when he's winning but then tragedy strikes and he's forced to leave because Tabby ends up in the hospital. Faced with this tragedy, Will tries to make sense of the world, especially when what he thought was true turned out to be quite different.

For about three fourths of the book I was not intrigued. Will's obsession with the protons and the fact that everything will at some point cease to exist did not interest me. His feelings for Mi-Su didn't even seem that real. It wasn't until Tabby got hurt that I was really sucked into the book and that's only like the last 50 pages. It's not until that point that the book honestly felt genuine. True, the revelations weren't that original, but it was a sweet dose of reality that Will needed because he was so obsessed with things he couldn't control. One thing that turned me off with the book was the choppiness of it's format. I prefer more of a fluid story and I didn't really feel that when reading this book.

I couldn't relate to the main character and maybe that's what made me struggle with this novel. It was a fast read and maybe I wanted more depth to it, which I think is what impressed me with the ending because it did take a step closer to the deep end of the pool while the rest seemed somewhat shallow. I can't say that if you're a Spinelli fan that you'll love this latest because I haven't read his others. Maybe you will, maybe you won't. It's just a risk you're going to have to take because even I'm on the fence about this one.