Monday, July 28, 2008

Prey by Lurlene McDaniel

Lurlene McDaniel, who normally write novels about children with severe illness, changes her direction in Prey, which is about a student/teacher relationship. Told through different perspectives, this novel does a good job of illustrating the dangerous predator/prey interaction.

Ryan is a freshman who, on the first day of school, discovers that his world history teacher, Lori Settles, is beyond attractive. As a freshman boy he is turned on and, when she asks him for help after school moving furniture in her apartment, he sees a chance to get a little closer to her. Her invitation, though, isn't as innocent as it seems to him. Lori had her eyes set on him from the first day, too, knowing that with a little encouragement, they could have the relationship she longs for with him. True to her hopes, after a few meetings at a coffee shop, their relationship turns into something physical and Ryan is soon sneaking around his father and friends to connect with her. Meanwhile, Ryan's friend Honey, who has a crush on him, starts to notice that he's not the same person he was. He's not showing up for their plans and rarely hangs out with his friends anymore. Since secrets can't stay hidden forever, it's only a matter of time before the truth comes out and everyone's lives are changed. The only problem is, though, what happens when the supposed victim doesn't feel like one?

This book did a good job of making Lori seem like a predator. From the very beginning she honed in on her prey and meticulously set things in motion to have him come to her. When they were together, then, she sucked him into her secrets and turned him into something else. She became controlling and made Ryan feel guilty for wanting to have his normal life to the point that he even starts to lie to her. The book really made her look like the enemy. As for Ryan, he was genuinely torn due to the mind control of Lori, but, at the same time, he decided his own fate when he got with her, so can you really feel bad for him? The novel wraps up nicely with a jump three years in the future to discover how Ryan really feels about the situation and how truly sick and twisted the whole mess was.

I thought the novel delivered nicely. At first it felt a little choppy, but once the entanglement began, you wanted to know how it all played out because you knew they'd get caught. I don't know if loyal Lurlene McDaniel fans will go for the book because it isn't her typical, although an author's note does state that it has similar themes. There may be some similarities and connections, but I can't compare. As an outsider reading this book, I enjoyed it and would recommend picking it up.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe

Bad Kitty is a quirky mystery that in no way should be taken seriously. The characters are completely out there, as are the situations they find themselves in. Overall this book is just a fun distraction.

Jas is on vacation in Las Vegas on the annual family trip with her obnoxious cousin Alyson and Alyson's best friend Veronique. Jas has a history of finding trouble and this trip is no exception when a cat jumps on her lap and somehow results in the destruction of a wedding and her family being kicked out of the hotel. That is, of course, until the Hollywood star cat owner intervenes and allows them to stay. When Jas becomes friends with the Hollywood star's son (Fred), a mystery develops in her attempts to protect the boy from someone sent to possibly kill him in connection to his father who is an escaped murderer. It becomes a little more complicated when the boy of her dreams, Jack, shows up and might be the one trying to hurt Fred. Soon someone's trying to kill Jas and her best friends show up and try to help her solve the mystery.

This novel, like I said, is a little over the top. Alyson and Veronique are the typical ditz, spouting such lines as "That was so Mastercard," meaning priceless, and wearing outfits that match their bubblegum. When her best friends (Tom, Roxy, and Polly) show up, you have a character obsessed with aliens (Roxy) and a fashionista who loves to Bedazzle and destroy Jas' wardrobe(Polly). Jas is a whole extreme character in herself, making a homemade fingerprinting kit and stealing a limo among her many escapades. Sometimes the situations are a little much to swallow and other times they're fun. One thing that got annoying were the footnotes, or side conversations between the characters. Sometimes they had useful information, but other times they were just dramatic tangents that became irritating as they kept appearing. True, they sound like a regular conversation between teenage girls (the conversations are realistic) but they were a distraction that we could have done without.

This is a story that cannot be taken seriously. If you want a true mystery thriller, this is not it. This is a humorous mystery that involves plenty of eye rolls, "yeah-right" moments, and laughs. The characters may be fun and quirky, but some of the situations and reactions might get on your nerves if you're looking for something with more depth. Give it a shot, though, if you want something amusing. For another review on this novel, see July 12, 2007.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

How to Hook a Hottie by Tina Ferraro

Do not be deceived, this novel is not a how-to manual on snagging the hottest boy in school. While it might provide some tips, it is not a step-by-step guide and is purely fiction. It is, in fact, just a sweet novel about setting priorities and realizing what you really want in life.

Kate DelVecchio has a dream of becoming a millionaire by the age of twenty. She has a deal with her parents that if she can raise $5,000 by graduation they'll give her the college fund and she can start her own business. During her senior year, the hottest boy in school, who just happens to be her chem lab partner, asks her out and she suddenly has a new found popularity that she doesn't want since she has no feelings for the guy. Soon, though, people start coming to her for tips on how to snag a hottie and she sees an "Ideal Opportunity" to make the rest of her money. With the help of her best friend Dal, Kate pretends to play matchmaker while racking up the money. That, though, is not the only drama in her life. For one, her mother is off in Germany pursuing for higher education dreams while Kate is left with the responsibility of taking care of things at home while bitterly resenting her mother. Also, in efforts to raising money for her own dream, Kate drives around the young Lexie, an aspiring ice skater whose mother couldn't care less about her daughter's dreams. While trying to deal with those problems and the love needs of her schoolmates, Kate begins to see her best friend in a completely different light, but he already has a girlfriend, so she's out of luck. Will everything work out, or will it all blow up in Kate's face?

This is a nice and light read. What's good about the novel is that there's some good advice in it, and I'm not just talking in terms of hooking a hottie. Kate sees her mother as selfish and through that, she explores what it means to have dreams and aspirations and what to do when those take over your life. This novel was enjoyable.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Gossip Girl the Carlyles by Cecily von Ziegesar

Gossip Girl is a sensation that has moved from the page to the small screen with the hit TV show. Never having read any of the books, I decided to see what they were all about. The Carlyles is the newest book from the Gossip Girl series, and I was a bit hesitant picking it up not having read any of the others. For others new to the series, have no fear, this is actually the first book in a new set of characters with Gossip Girl still dishing out the latest info on the characters.

The characters at the center of the drama are the Carlyle triplets - Avery, Owen, and Baby - who just moved to Manhattan from Nantucket. Avery wants nothing more than to fit into the world of the all girl school and be popular. It doesn't help, though, that she makes enemies with the top dog - Jack Laurent - before school even begins. Now she has even more work cut out for her, but she's not giving up. Owen, her very attractive swimming obsessed brother, has his own problems when he realizes his summer love is actually the girlfriend of his new best friend. When she (Kat to Owen or Kelsey to the rest of the world) dumps her boyfriend (Rhys Sterling) for "someone else" Rhys is devastated and Owen is put between a rock and a hard place since he can't betray his new friend for a girl. And then there's Baby who walks to a beat of a different drummer. She doesn't fit in and she doesn't care. All she wants to do is return to Nantucket and the stoner boyfriend she left behind. When she runs into J.P. Cashman and his dogs, she realizes there might be something worthwhile in New York when he offers her a job walking the dogs she falls in love with. Things might not be so bad for Baby and Avery if it weren't for Jack, who just happens to be J.P.'s demanding girlfriend. Not to mention the fact that her father just cut off all of her expenses, Jack just might prove to be their worst enemy.

All of the drama in the novel just might be a little too much to swallow, as are all of the fashion references. True that's the world of the rich and soon to be famous, but I don't really care what designer Avery's wearing and I don't know that what makes one thing totally hot versus so last season. It all seemed too shallow for me. The only character I really liked was Baby and that was because she didn't give into that world. It was nice to see someone not get sucked in. Owen was also a good character due his loyalty for Rhys but that's not to say that he doesn't have his own ulterior motives. Avery, you can sympathize with her desire to fit in, but, at the same time, you can't help but wonder why she wants to go through all that trouble to be like Jack who has no soul. All of the male characters are likable. The women, on the other hand, you just want to smack, except, like I said, Baby.

Does that make the novel good or bad, I can't really decide. Maybe this is exactly like the original Gossip Girl, but I can't compare due to not having read the others. I'm sure there are parallels, why deviate too much from a working patter, but I don't know. I'm sure that loyal fans will love this new addition. For me, if there's nothing else to read I might pick up the next book coming out in October, but, for now, I prefer books with a little more depth to them.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad by Sakuishi

This is manga. This is intended for older teens. Like most manga the suggested age range is on the book. It is a good thing when parents(especially of younger teens and of children) take an interest in the books their kids are reading and perhaps nudge. The language is as rude and crude as teens (especially guys) get. The story is an absolute hoot and very age appropriate. Which means funny. The guys are in a garage band of sorts and practice a lot and think of names for their band a lot. The girls are fantastic swimmers on a swim team. There are no rules that those guys in the band couldn't be on the team too. Fun right. There are no rules girls can't be involved in the band. Beck is the dog on the cover - rescued if you look at him you can see he has been through quite a lot!
JDW 7/23/08

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Sister's Bones by Cathi Hanauer

Cassie goes off to college, for the first time, fearful of going and of her ability to be good enough for her demanding father and slides into anorexia. Billie, left behind finds herself becoming stronger even as Cassie weakens. She stands up to her father and starts thinking about her future on her terms not her father. Cassie was always the strong sassy one and Billie always the quiet cooperative one. What happens to change these two sisters, how and why is explored in this touching story. The girls remain close throughout and while there is hope for both girls the story ends without a certain final outcome.
JDW 7/22/08

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"La Ciudad de la Oscuridad" By Jeanne Duprau

This novel was quite unusual to me, being that the story was all about a town called Las Ascuas. This town was in the dark after 7pm. To me the town was fictitious.

The town had few stores that were limited in merchandise. The canned vegetables, and canned
fruit were the same over, and over. In other words, there was no variety in anybody foods. People of the town felt they were in a routine with no way out.

One day, Doon, who was a main chacter in the novel, and Lina a female charracter in the book,
were on an adventure in the huge plumbing pipes. They discovered a door that opened into a
beautiful room that stashed away exotic foods that they had not seen in five years. For example.
pineapple, and applesauce. It turned out the mayor of Las Ascuas, had this room full of goodies
for himself. The mayor was hoarding the goodies, and used the room for his Apartment.

Towards the end of the novel, Lina, Poppy, and Doon plan to escape the surroundings of their village, and end up in a Lake, and a new place.

Throughout the novel, the author is so descriptive of nature, and the places delt with in the novel. It makes you feel your living throughout the novel.

This novel is meant for a High School reader, who enjoys adventure.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Last of the High Kings - Kate Thompson

This sequel set 25 years after The New Policeman has J.J. grown up and having his own family. His daugher Jenny though, is not human, she is a fairy child from T'ir na n'Og. Jenny doesn't have any idea who she really is at first. She skips school because its so boring, and she goes up on to the mountain and spends her time conversing with the ghost who guards the hatchet there. From a Puka she learns about T'ir na n'Og and why the ghost guards the mountain. Jenny learns that she isn't human and is from T'ir na n'Og. J.J. made a deal so that Jenny could grow up here while his own daugher stay young until Jenny went back to T'ir na n'Og and his daughter come back to him to raise with his wife. Jenny does go back to T'ir na n'Og after helping Mikey, The Last of the High Kings, go up the mountain one last time even though the Puka don't want him to.

It was an ok book. By the title I was thinking that Mikey was going to be a central part of the story, but it turns out that it was about Jenny for most of the book. Mikey pops up here and there and is part of the ending but thats about it. Both The New Policeman and The Last of the High Kings have a good story to be told, but the way it was told didn't really work for me. I'm not saying they aren't good, I guess I expected more from the story than what was in the book.

T.B. 7/17/08

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sketches by Eric Walters

Dana has run away from home. She ran away from everything she knows because of her stepfather. She meets up with Ashley and Brent, who are also homeless. They ask for money from people at the train station, clean car windows, and even go to places that give free food just to survive day to day. One day Dana is spray painting on a wall and Robert Erickson sees it and tells her about a shelter named Sketches that helps young artists. Dana is hesitant at first and Ashley and Brent don't want her to go, but she goes anyway and finds that she enjoys being there. As the days go by she learns about Ashley's and Brent's life before they ran away. They also start to save money to get an apartment together. Ashley and Brent eventually find out that Dana cuts herself and that she ran away from home because of her stepfather.

A good book that shows what people do to survive on the streets. Also, how family is important no matter if its your immediate family or your friends. No matter what happens you can always go back home again.

T.B. 7/15/08

Friday, July 11, 2008

Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott

This novel comes with a healthy bit of reality amidst the regular fluff and stuff. The main character undergoes a series of unfortunate misfortune that I'm sure others have undergone (in one form or another) and comes to a realistic conclusion that won't give readers false hope.

Kate Brown seems to have everything going against her. Her best friend Anna suddenly became popular and left her in the dust. Her father quit his job in order to sell vitamins in the mall, forcing Kate to help him without compensation. And, on top of all that, a boy named Will, known for hooking up with half the female population, has taken a special interest in her, even though she can't stand him. Or so she thought. Pretty soon it seems as though Will is the only bright spot in her job at the mall, given that they've started making out in the hidden corridors, but that's all they seem to do. If this sudden romantically physical interest in her isn't enough confusion for Kate, Anna claims to miss her and need her but won't take the extra step to be her real friend. To make matters even worse, the situation with her father has forced her family to call in help from Grandma, who seems to cause more problems than solutions. For Kate it seems as though there is no end in sight to her misery.

While most of what Kate undergoes is a bit extreme - I don't think that many can relate to a father destroying the family for the pursuit of vitamin sales - I found many other aspects relateable. For example, the sudden popularity and loss of a friend or general family money problems or a boy who you love but hate. I really liked Kate's sarcastic personality; it added a great amount of humor to the story. It was also another realistic aspect because I think many people turn to sarcasm to hide what they're really going through. What really caused me to like this novel was the ending, or beginning as Kate calls it. This novel doesn't end happily ever after. Her family doesn't win the vitamin lottery and she and Anna don't return to being BFFs. This novel had a great lesson because, as Kate puts it, "But things change. Stuff happens. And you know what? Life goes on. In fact, that's what life is" (282). While it seems very obvious, this is a reality check that everyone needs to be reminded of every once in a while.

The story may be a bit goofy, but it has a moral, something I think many books lack these days. This is a book people should read, especially if they feel as though the world is against them and nothing will be as it was.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to KILL You by Ally Carter

Move over Nancy Drew and Charlie's Angels here come the Gallagher Girls. They are genius children of former master spies who are being trained to be master spies. They know 14 languages, how to hack into most computer systems, how to hang a zip line and many other skills useful for spying. But, since they are forbidden to leave the school grounds except rarely and since the school is all girls they are quite clueless about boys, what to wear to a fair, makeup and so on. So when a special ops gone wrong sends a group of girls to a fair and one is left alone and meets a boy - well she has a lot to learn. Okay so this is an improbable story, but so are the beloved Nancy Drew Stories and there's no harm in a little fun and in imagining what it might be like if things could be this way. I enjoyed this light story. I am looking forward to the next adventure.
JDW 7/10/08

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Host - Stephenie Meyer

A parasitic space race comes to Earth and takes over most of humanity using their bodies as hosts. The host consiousness fades away in most cases letting the parasite fully take over. Melanie on the other hand won't go away. Her body is found by a Seeker and the Healers put a parasite in her to save her. The parasite using Melanie's memories then sets off on her own to find her brother and Uncle who were on the run. She finds them and a resistance cell of humans, who want to kill her right away. Jeb, her Uncle and leader of the cell, decides to keep her alive so they can learn about these parasites. When she starts to integrate into the community it is only Jeb and her brother Jamie who treat her as an equal. She is given the name Wanda, short for wanderer. As time passes most everyone accepts her for who she is. She even tells stories of other worlds where the parasites have inhabited, which fascinates everyone. When Jared, Melanie's boyfriend, comes back from a raid he wants to kill her because she's not Melanie anymore. Ian on the other hand falls in love with Wanda, while Melanie is still in love with Jared. Confilct ensues and a tribunal is held to determine who stays and who goes. After it's decided that Wanda stays she tells the doctor how to remove the parasites, and let the host bodies regain who they were. As I neared the end I figured out how it was going to end, but I won't spoil that for you. Overall I enjoyed The Host and I thought it was just as good as Twilight. Stephenie Meyer shows us what it is to be human and what its like seeing humans through the eyes of another, in this case an alien race. Also, she shows us how we humans come together and resist invaders when our lives are threatened and that we will fight to the end.

T.B. 7/8/08

Monday, July 07, 2008

Safe by Susan Shaw

This novel, like The Missing Girl and Wake, is nominated for Best Book for Young Adults. While the previous two novels failed to impress me, Safe captured the emotion and pain of the situation that makes it stand out.

Tracy is a thirteen year old girl who had her life turned upside down on the last day of seventh grade. On her way home from school she was kidnapped and left physically and emotionally scarred. During the summer she then struggles to feel safe again, finding strength in playing the piano and the constant presence of her father. The only problem, though, is that she loses disconnects herself from her best friends and things she used to love, unable to handle people's looks of pity and chooses to be alone even though people try to help her. Just when she finds herself staying afloat, the impending trial causes her world to spin out of control again.

What actually happens to Tracy is left rather ambiguous until the end when she utters the one word that tells it all. Without even saying the word rape, the damage that her attacker did left its mark and the reader can't help but sympathize for her. Her desire to simply feel safe is so powerful that you almost want to wrap her in your arms and tell her it will be okay. She keeps thinking that she can avoid it and pretend it never happened, but I think that everyone knows that if you don't face it, the problem will come back and swallow you whole, which it does. I felt as though this novel did a great job capturing the pain that a person goes through when put in this situation. I liked how Tracy refers to other girl because she's not the same after what happened. Even though she's only thirteen, I this novel is one that rape victims could relate to. It might even give them strength because even though Tracy doesn't undergo some miraculous cure, she sees that there's light at the end of the tunnel, which I think victims need to be reminded of.

If you're looking for something light and airy, Safe is not the book for you. It is a good book, though, one that makes you think and feel, as well as be grateful for the safety you already have without even trying.

Juvie Three by Gordon Korman

I just wanted to add to this review that the guys are juvenile delinquents. They are expected to screw up, badly. One of them does. The whole time Doug is out of the picture known as John Doe at the hospital and later at a mental hospital they try to maintain the agreement they had with Doug with varying success. It looks like its all over for the trio when a social services review is coming up and Doug must be present. The boys concoct a scheme to spring him from the secure mental hospital that gets all mixed up in a gang attack and a visit from Roxie's uncle warning Gecko to stay away from her in a sometimes funny fast paced conclusion that will have you rooting for the juvie's.

JDW 7/7/08

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Juvie Three By: Gordon Korman

This novel is an eye opener to all who read this book. It has to do with three boys serving time in juvenile detention centers. The three boys are Gecko Fosse, Terence Florian, & Arjay Moran. Lo and behold, they meet Douglas Healy, who was a former juvenile delinquent. Now Douglas Healy runs an experimental half way house. It seems to be managed well until Healy tries to break up a fight one day. Healy is knocked unconscious, so the boys deliver him to a hospital without staying around. Healy stays in a coma for one week, & looses all his memory. He doesn't have a clue what his name is, & address where he lives.

Gecko comes often to the Hospital to visit Douglas. Gecko to his surprise, meets Roxie, who is a volunteer at the Hospital. Gecko falls head over heals over Roxie. Things get complicated & Gecko finds out Roxie is connected to the Asst. Chief of Police.

This novel is fast paced & would be interesting to any middle school teen. I liked the
book very much. LRD 6/30/08