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.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Patron Saint of Butterflies By: Cecilia Galante

This is the author's first novel for young adults. She is a High School teacher in Pennsylvania.
This is a novel about a religious commune called Mount Blessing. The commune has strict rules, and guarded secrets that unroll in the novel. To me the book is fascinating, and educational at the same time.

The main personalities are Agnes & Honey that have lived at the commune since childhood. Agnes's purpose in life is to become a Saint. Honey wants to leave the commune for good. The two girl's grandmother Nana Pete comes to visit the commune, and is appalled at what happens at the commune for discipline. It is a way of punishment given to people who live there. It is very cruel, and harsh. For example, girls have to lift their blouses to expose their backs, so the Head of the commune Emanuel slashes their back with a leather belt until they have big welts. The room were the punishment is administered is the regulation room.
Nana Peter the grandmother, comes to take the girl's far away from the Commune for good. Nana Pete drives a station wagon for many miles, and ends up at her daughter's house. Nana Pete suffers from a heart disease, and dies at at her daughter Lillian's house.
This book has many stories about what goes on in a commune. I do not want to go on, because it would spoil your interest in reading this good novel.
LRD/ 8/21/08

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Nightwood by Patricia Windsor

Nightwood is very reminiscent of the typical horror film. Young teens, driven by sexual desire, end up in the dark and creepy woods that just happen to harbor some creepy killer driven by blood lust. Typical? yes. Full of surprise and edge of your seat suspense? Not an over abundance. Enjoyable to read? For the most part.

Gena and her two friends, Casey and Maryann, decide that instead of going on the school trip to Washington, D.C., like they told their parents, they'd head up to Casey's family's cottage in the woods for a week of independence. Casey, though, has an ulterior motive since her boyfriend is staying in a nearby cabin. Maryann also sees this an opportunity to escape the oppressive relationship with her father. The cabin is located in the woods of a small town of Delonga without much crime. That, though, changes when someone finds a pile of mutilated animals in an abandoned cabin. Figuring it was just a bear, the sheriff doesn't pay it much mind. His son, however, is unnerved by what happened and does some online research, only to discover that a trail of mutilated animals was discovered leading in the direction of his town. He soon realizes that there's a really sick person living in his woods. In the meantime, Casey tricks the girls into visiting her boyfriend's cabin, only to learn that his friend Jeff has gone missing. On a search for the friend, they discovered the mutilated remains of a dog and then, a few yards away, that of a human body. The girls, not wanting to be discovered by their parents if they contact the police, run away, get caught in a rainstorm, sink their boat and, by the time they get to land, Gena goes missing. Soon things are a little too close for comfort when the creature of the woods comes to visit these teens.

This book did not turn out half as scary as I thought. The man is creepy but the threatening situations didn't last throughout the novel. It needed to be more continuous or more surprising to really be scary. In no way did I risk nightmares or fear the dark shadows when reading this novel. One thing I did like, though, was this little mystery in the middle of the book when three males are attacked/gone missing and there's another suspect besides the creepy man in the woods. It was interesting to see which stories related. One thing that drove me crazy, though, was the stupidity/selfishness of the girls. With all the freaky things going on, they were more concerned with getting in trouble by their parents than being killed. And, Maryann was more concerned with getting away from her father and starting a new life than helping her friends. I couldn't stand the characters. Later, I found the truth about the killer interesting. On the downside, however, his interactions with Gena seemed too easy. I mean, come on. I get how certain people can be brainwashed, but he was far too accepting.

The novel does have a bit of a twist at the end, but if you're looking for a super creepy story to keep you up at night, this one doesn't really pull through. I'd say this novel is good to read around a campfire in the woods, but not so much beyond that.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Peeled by Joan Bauer

Most small towns in the North East United States have something unique to their town and Banesville, New York is no exception. Banesville is home to the Apple Blossom Festival and also the supposedly haunted Ludlow house. Hildy Biddle is a reporter for her high school news paper The Core, and is notorious for getting all the facts for her articles. So when mysterious signs start showing up at the Ludlow house, Hildy's editor sends her to investigate. At first there's not much to the story, but when someone is arrested trying to break in and then a few days later another person dies on the property the story pics up. The other local paper, The Bee, is publishing exaggerated stories about what is going on at the Ludlow house, The Core is publishing the truth. A battle ensues between the editor of The Bee and Hildy and the staff of The Core. As the battle escalates The Core is shut down and Hildy, who thinks all is lost, gets inspiration from a Polish cafe owner to start her own paper. With the popularity of The Peel, the truth finally comes out about what the Mayor of Banesville really wants to do with the town.

A fun and quirky novel that shows the importance of knowing the truth, and once you know the truth, how to get it out to the people. It also shows what happens when peoples fears are played on. Fear can be a powerful emotion, and in the wrong hands can be turned into something ugly.

T.B. 8/13/08

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Death of Jayson Porter

Jayson lives with his mother in the Florida projects. His mother drinks, does drugs, and beats Jayson. His only salvation is the part time job he has at the local auto shop, starting summer school, and hanging out with his friend Trax. When things get really bad with this mother Jayson goes to his father's place and then he finds out that his mom isn't his real mom. He was taken away because his real mom was messed up in drugs and wasn't getting clean. Shortly after this revelation, Trax is killed in an meth lab explosion in the apartment next to his. After Trax's funeral Jayson decides that he can't take anymore pain in his life and decides to kill himself. He jumps off the ruins of Trax's apartment and survives. When he wakes up in the hospital his mom and dad are there comforting him and trying to understand why he did this.

Overall a good book. The book pulls you into Jayson's life and the emotions that he is going through when his mother beats him, when hes yelled at for not doing his job, and before and after his suicide attempt.

T.B. 8/11/08

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti

This novel is about a young girl dealing with Panic Disorder. For unknown reasons, and her own paranoia, Jade DeLuna suffers from panic attacks. One way she has learned to stay calm is by watching the elephants at the nearby Seattle Zoo. Luckily the elephant area has it's own webcam, allowing her to watch the elephants at home. One day she sees a boy in a red jacket appear on the screen with a little baby on his back. Instantly Jade is drawn to him. When she receives a job working with the elephants, she has her first real encounter with the boy - a young man named Sebastian and his son Bo. The two start to date but secrets surround Jade, from the truth about Bo's mother, to the fact that she hasn't told her parents about what she's doing with her time and the realization that things between Jade's parents aren't what they used to be. Will the truth shatter the safety that she's found with Sebastian, or will things work out in the end?

This novel failed to impress me. I won't say it's the worst book ever, because it wasn't. It just wasn't the best book ever. At times it was slow but overall it held its pace without too much up and down. I liked the use of the elephants and how symbolic they were in the story. Each chapter started with a quote about animal behaviors that sort-of tied into the story. That was interested. The rest...average and maybe a little too average. But maybe that's a good thing in a world where everything is overly dramatized, but yet people come to expect that, so when things are "normal" it ends up being a disappointment. I can't really pinpoint why I'm not impressed with the novel; that's just the way it is.

Friday, August 01, 2008 Judy Blume

This novel, while written in the 70s and at times dated, is a very true and real account of young love and young sex.

Katherine meets Michael at a friend's party and, at first, she ignores him but that's only because she doesn't realize that she really likes him. Given a second shot, the two hit it off. Before they know it, teenager hormones are taking over and they're considering becoming intimate. Katherine's body is ready before her mind and it takes her a time to fully accept where the relationship is going. After a few bumps in the road, such as her period on their first weekend alone together, she and Michael (and Ralph -the name of Michael's...well, you know) join together in what is definitely a clumsy first time. But that doesn't stop their love from increasing physically and making them inseparable. That is, of course, until their parents intervene and get the kids summer jobs in different states, which proposed the question of can young love survive long distance? Amidst all this love, Katherine's best friend, Erica forms a relationship with Michael's friend Artie, helping him discover whether or not he's gay and helping him deal with what seems like a bi-polar personality.

This book was very blunt and to the point. It didn't beat around the bush on the intimacy and the precautions that the characters took. That's one of the good things about it because it talks about condoms and takes the reader step-by-step through Katherine's appointment at Planned Parenthood for a Birth Control prescription. It was a healthy dose of reality. There's also the discussion of pregnancy when it happens to one of Katherine's friend. It suggests abortion, but, at the same time, discusses the other option of adoption. What I really liked about the book, though, was how real it seemed. They didn't just jump into the sack and do it the first night. There was the attraction, but there was also the hesitation as Katherine realized how serious this next step was. There was a nice emphasis on your mind being ready, as well as your body. They didn't take the subject lightly. At the same time, the romance wasn't perfect. The sex, especially the first time, was awkward and I'm sure that's true for many first-timers. But beyond the sex, the relationship wasn't perfect. It just goes to show that the concept of forever and teenagers might not be the real thing because they're still young the the world is so big. The only negative of the novel is that at times it came off a bit dated (but nothing to the point that it detracted from the story). I can really only pin-point three or four situations - teens now probably don't know the organization NOW, they called it VD instead of STD or STI, the hook rug craze and fondue aren't exactly on today teens' top ten, and I don't really think that teens go for long hair and long mustaches on guys. Just the same, though, none of those instances detract from the story, therefore making it very fitting for today's teens.

I can't think of a better way to say it, but this novel was very real and maybe even an eye-opener for some teens. I'm sure that many can relate and it brings up many points that teens need to consider when embarking on this portion of a relationship. This is definitely a book they should read.