05. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

Pregnant Pause by Han Nolan, read by Courtney, on 08/30/2012

Elly is 16 and pregnant. And because of her stubborn nature, has decided to marry the father, 18-year-old Lam, even though neither set of parents are particularly keen on the idea. The initial plan is for Elly to go and live with Lam at the weight-loss summer camp that his parents run. There, she will act as a “counselor in training” while her new husband does his annual counselor duties. Elly’s parents head back to Kenya to work with orphans, leaving Elly to figure things out with Lam. As for the baby, Elly’s sister, who has been plagued by miscarriages, and Lam’s parents, who lost a baby once due to a fatal birth defect, both want to adopt the baby when it is born. The only thing everyone aside from Elly and Lam can agree on is that the couple should not be the ones to raise the child. As far as the adults are concerned, Elly and Lam are not mature enough to take care of a kid on their own.
So Elly and Lam get married at the courthouse and then move into a cabin at the camp. Lam immediately leaves Elly alone to go party (since their wedding day happens to be the same day as his graduation)and things only get worse from there. The other counselors don’t seem to think highly of Elly and her in-laws seem to blame her for everything that goes wrong. Lam becomes more and more absent. Elly’s silver lining becomes her work with the kids at the camp. Even though she’s hugely pregnant, she teaches an improvisational dance class in another counselor’s absence. She slowly becomes friends with a couple of other counselors (though the female counselors continue to freeze her out). Even though she’s easily caught up in the day to day drama of the camp, Elly never forgets that she has a decision to make: what to do with her baby.
To go further with a plot summary would be to spoil the ending and it’s such a great ending that I don’t want to do that for anyone. Suffice it to say, while I probably should have seen certain things coming, I wound up surprised nonetheless. Elly is a truly believable and surprisingly sympathetic character. A handful of occurrences throughout the story did appear somewhat contrived, primarily the complete and total absence of Elly’s parents during the end of her pregnancy, the lack of medical care throughout the pregnancy (yeah, I know, she hates doctors, but it just seems so convenient), and the whole Ziggy thing. Otherwise, this manages to raise itself above the label of “problem novel” and brings up some very interesting issues while never bogging the reader down in heavy-handed morality. This probably won’t be nearly as interesting for the boys though, which makes this a less-than-ideal Gateway Award Nominee. Yes, the book is pretty solid, but the appeal will be limited to the female crowd.

05. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Graphic Novel

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger, read by Courtney, on 08/28/2012

Maybe someday you will get really lucky and come across the Night Bookmobile. You can’t go looking for it; you’ll have to wait for it to find you. When you do see it, it will be blasting music that you know and love. When you board it, you will slowly begin to realize that you’ve read everything on the shelves. Every. Single. Thing. When you finally have to tear yourself away from the wonders of the Night Bookmobile, you’ll find that morning has arrived. You also won’t be able to take anything from the shelves with you.
It might be years, even decades before you see the bookmobile again. When you do, you’ll notice how many more books are lining its shelves and you’ll realize that this is *your* bookmobile. It contains everything you’ve ever read and its librarian can tell you where and when you read it. But he still won’t let you check anything out. It’s against the rules.
Oh, and if you really want to be a librarian who works on the Night Bookmobile….well, let’s just say you had better be positively sure that’s exactly what you want.
A charming and slightly haunting read.

05. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Courtney, Teen Books

The Kill Order (Maze Runner prequel) by James Dashner, read by Courtney, on 08/26/2012

OK. There were a few things I really wanted from this book. Namely, answers that I had left over from the first three books. I knew this was a prequel, but I had no idea where Dashner would pick up the storyline. I had *hoped* that it would involve Tom and Teresa’s work with WICKED prior to the maze. But, with the exception of the introduction, Teresa is nowhere to be found and Tom is only mentioned one more time in the entire book. Instead, it focuses on Mark, a teenaged boy who has become separated from his family in the aftermath of the solar flares, and Alec, a grizzled retired soldier-type, who leads Mark and several others to safety.
So there they are, a group of folks living in the Appalachian Mountains, minding their own business, when an airship lands nearby. The occupants of the airship begin shooting darts at the people in the settlement. Many of those hit die shortly after. Others take days to die. One thing is certain: if anyone is to survive, Mark and Alec are going to need to track down the source of the mysterious airship in the hopes that it can lead them to a cure.
So, if you’ve read the Maze Runner series, you very likely have a good idea of what’s in those darts. And really, this incident is about the only thing that explains any of the state of affairs in the rest of the series. I really wanted more world-building out of this series. The first two books were so good, mainly because they created so many intriguing questions. These last two books though…they just fall flat in spite of all the action. Fans of action will be pleased to note that this installment has it in spades. Nearly every chapter includes a near-death fight or daring escape, so it moves quickly. If it weren’t for the mentions of a few “Maze Runner”-specific lingo (i.e. “Bergs”, “Flat trans”, etc.), I might have even forgotten this was part of the series. In that sense, Kill Order can stand alone. It’s just that there was so much promise at the beginning of this series that it’s hard not to be a little disappointed when the ending/prequel doesn’t meet expectations.

05. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

Something Like Hope by Shawn Goodman, read by Courtney, on 08/25/2012

Shavonne has been living in foster care and detention centers almost her entire life. She’s currently getting ready to turn 18, which means a change in placement is likely. While she’d really like to strike out on her own and raise her daughter (who has been in foster care for the past three years), she can’t seem to get her act together. She picks fights with the guards and is resistant to therapy. She’s seen so many other girls up against similar odds and knows that these stories rarely end well. Shavonne begins to keep a journal and slowly opens up to her new therapist, even though she ultimately doesn’t believe it will do any good. When her fellow patients face trauma, Shavonne surprises herself by stepping up to the challenge. Her future may not so bleak, after all.
“Something Like Hope” is quick, gritty read. Goodman does a decent job of portraying troubled teen girls, but Shavonne does not always come across as believable. Some of the other characters are a bit two-dimensional as well. There is undoubtedly an audience for this book, but it’s not likely to be a broad one. This would make a great “Quick Pick” for reluctant readers and would be especially resonant for those in detention facilities. I have a hard time seeing it make an impact on those teens that are more removed from the difficult life that Shavonne has been living. I also have a hard time seeing this rise above “problem novel” status. The answers come way too easily.

05. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Graphic Book, Informational Book

The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the media by Brooke Gladstone, read by Courtney, on 08/23/2012

It’s pretty rare that I read non-fiction, but when it’s packaged up all nice and comic-like, it’s much easier for me to be willing to pick it up. And this book is well-worth picking up. Brooke Gladstone of NPR takes the reader through an extensive investigation into journalism and the media. If you think you know the media, you likely don’t even know a fraction of the story. Gladstone not only tells us of the history of media, particularly American-style reporting, she also reveals the biases of both the media and the consumer. When all these pieces are put into context, we begin to realize just how ingrained our assumptions and biases are.
In spite of coming to the difficult conclusion that completely unbiased and transparent journalism is next to impossible, the book does end on a hopeful note. Gladstone’s aim is to help us all become better consumers of media and ends by noting “We get the media we deserve.” An important book that should become required reading for anyone who creates or consumes media, which is to say, all of us.

05. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense · Tags:

Ripper by Stefan Petrucha, read by Courtney, on 08/20/2012

Our story opens with Carver Young getting kicked out of his orphanage (along with anyone else over the age of 13, due to new legislation). Carver has always dreamed of two things: finding his father and becoming a detective. After writing a letter to then-police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt, he is given the chance to work alongside the top-secret Pinkerton Agency and believes his dreams have come true. He’s been trying to find the clues to his past and only one appears to exist: a letter written to the orphanage from his father. What Carver doesn’t know (and the reader does, so no spoilage here) is that this particular letter has the exact same handwriting that appears on letters sent to the London police during the infamous Ripper murders. And a murderer has begun killing wealthy ladies around New York. The city is in an uproar and everyone is determined to be the first to track down the vicious killer. Carver just wants to find his father. With the Pinkerton’s resources backing him up, Carver goes forth to find his long lost father although he begins to suspect that this man may not be someone he wants to know.
Fast paced and whip-smart, this is a fantastic treatment of the Ripper legend. After all, the Ripper was never caught or identified, so why not have him move to America to begin anew? The setting is stylish and detailed with a host of colorful historical characters, fascinating gadgets and clever dialogue. This one is a winner, right up until the final twist.

05. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Horror

Locke and Key: Clockworks (Vol. 5) by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, read by Courtney, on 08/15/2012

Oh, I do so love a good back story.  This volume delivers in spades. Bode is still occupied by Dodge, but his siblings are starting to come around.  A key is discovered that allows its holders to view events in the past.  Tyler and Kinsey go back to view the events that transpired when their father was a teen in Keyhouse.  It turns out to reveal some of the true evil concealed by the house as well as the origins of Dodge’s sinister streak.  Three different time periods covered in one volume and so many questions answered.  Good reading.

05. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Teen Books · Tags: ,

The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge, read by Courtney, on 08/14/2012

Aoife (pronounced like “Eva” only with an “f” instead of a “v”, in case you were wondering)is positive that she is going to go mad when she reaches the age of 16. Her mother did and continues to languish in one of Lovecraft’s many sanatoriums. Her brother did as well. Right before he came at Aoife with a knife. To be mad is to be considered contagious. The “necrovirus” has been spreading insanity for so long that the local government is obsessed with keeping it (and any heresy, meaning anything that is not rational and therefore connected) as far away as it can. One day, Aoife gets a message from her missing brother, telling her to head for their father’s house in Arkham. Aoife feels that her estranged father might have the answer to preventing madness so she grabs her friend Cal and breaks out of Lovecraft in pursuit of her family’s secrets. Along the way, they pick up a guide named Dean who decides to stick it out with them until the end. The house in Arkham contains a library which opens the doors to more than Aoife ever thought possible.
There is so much going on in this book and so many themes, it can be hard to wrap one’s head around at times. Aoife’s world is brutal and mechanical; arts, magic and philosophy are strictly forbidden. It’s also set sometime in the mid-twentieth century (much later than I had originally suspected), but the societal attitudes seem even more didactic. The world doesn’t always make sense, particularly the necrovirus. It’s not just that though, things start to get really weird around the time Aoife and co. make it to Arkham. As it turns out, everything prohibited as fanciful “heresy” is dangerous reality. An ambitious book that combines alternate history, totalitarian governments, steampunk aesthetics, fairy curses, multiple “worlds”, and lots of strange creatures that can don human form with mixed results. The pace lags at times and the plot is slightly convoluted, but there’s sure to be an audience for this one.

04. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

Beyond Lucky by Sarah Aronson, read by Angie, on 09/04/2012

Ari Fish is an avid soccer player, big Wayne Temcoe fan, presidential trivia fanatic and a firm believer in luck. He has a set of rituals before every game that he must do or else. Then one day he finds a rare Temcoe trading card and believes his luck has skyrocketed. Suddenly he is playing better than ever as the starter goalie, he has girls talking to him and everything seems to be going great. Then his card is stolen. Suddenly his luck changes; he is fighting with his best friend Mac (who he thinks stole the card), the team is falling apart and his brother Sam (who is a smokejumper in California)isn’t contacting him. He has to figure out how to change his luck before everything truly falls apart.

I liked Ari; he is different from a lot of characters in these books. I liked that he was Jewish and preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. There are lots of references to his faith that I think were really interesting. I also really enjoyed his family; they are regular people with regular problems. I also thought the kids in the book acted like regular kids. They were petty and jealous and folded under peer pressure. Middle school is rough and these kids acted just like I remember kids acting.

I have to admit I am not a soccer fan or a sports fan for that matter. So the sports stuff was a little boring for me. However, I think fans of the game will enjoy it. I also thought Mac as a character was pretty predictable. You could see exactly how that story was going to play out from early on. However, I thought the book was really well written and a great book for sports fans and boys.

04. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Dystopia, Fiction, Teen Books

Scored by Lauren McLaughlin , read by Angie, on 09/03/2012

Imani lives in a world were everything is monitored. Her town is part of a pilot program for ScoreCorp. Kids are monitored and scored throughout their school years. Their score determines what they are going to do in live. Lowbies will have a hard time finding work, middle numbers can do menial jobs, and if you are one of the lucky 90s your success is guaranteed. You get a college scholarship and a chance at a better life. Imani was a 92 but then her friend’s life imploded and she is caught in the destruction. Suddenly she finds herself with a 62 and no prospects. Her plans for her future are crumbling around her. She has to learn to cope and figure out what she is going to do.

I love dystopians that make you think and this one is a thinker. The Score has taken over these kids lives. Everything they do is about their score; who they talk to, who they sit with at lunch, what they do in their free time. The Eyes watch them and judge them always. I really enjoyed the discussions about societal merit systems and chastes and how the Score compares to slavery or women’s rights. I like Imani’s journey as she learns more about the Score and the role it plays in society. However, I do wish we would have learned more about how it actually works. This is a really short book (and easy to read) so there would have been room for more exploration of how ScoreCorp actually determines the scores and such. As much as I liked Imani’s journey and development I did think it was a little predictable. Her friendship with Diego was a great way for her to become more self-aware but you could see the ending coming. However, it is a great little dystopian and fun to read.

04. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick, read by Angie, on 09/02/2012

Jeffrey is a cancer survivor, but he is also your typical 8th grade boy. He has problems with homework and parents and girls. His best friend is also a cancer survivor and he and Tad bond over the after effects of their disease and treatment. Neither came away normal. Jeff walks with a limp and has problems remembering stuff. Tad is in a wheelchair. Jeff has a lot going on this year. A new girl has moved to town and she is totally HOT and Jeff really likes her. There are new standardize tests that decide if a student graduates 8th grade and Jeff is hopeless at tests and math. His brother, who he really depends on, ran away to play drums in Africa. And Tad is hiding something from him.

This is a book that will tug at your heartstrings, but also make you laugh. I loved the sarcastic interplay between Jeff and Tad; it seemed perfect. Do I think 8th grade boys really talk like that? Not really. Tad especially has some zingers that I don’t think a real 8th grader would say, but they are perfect for the book. I really enjoyed the adults in this book as well. They seemed very realistic in how they dealt with a lot of the situations. Jeff’s parents especially are well-written. I just might have to check out the previous book about these characters.

04. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John, read by Angie, on 09/01/2012

Piper somehow finds herself the manager of high school rock band Dumb. She has one month to prove herself as a manager by finding them a paying gig. The only problems: the band is falling apart and Piper is deaf and knows nothing about music.

I really liked this book. It seemed very real with complicated characters and a great story. I love Piper’s journey in the book. She goes from shy wallflower to badass chick. I like her interaction with the band and I liked that all the band members were distinct characters. The girls in the band got a little more attention than the boys (except Ed); we really don’t know that much about Will and Josh. I also really liked Piper’s relationships with her family; they are complicated and messy and real. She resents her baby sister Grace because her parents raided her college fund to pay for Grace’s implants. So now Grace will hear when Piper never will. She is angry with her father because he never learned sign language and doesn’t appear interested in her. Her mother is so busy working and taking care of Grace she has no time for Piper. And her younger brother is at times a pain and a helper. I really liked that Piper doesn’t use her deafness as a crutch. In fact she uses it to manipulate people (which I loved) and help her get out of situations. This isn’t really a book about a deaf girl managing a band it is about a girl coming into her own and figuring out who she really is and who those around her are.

That isn’t to say that the book doesn’t have it’s problems. The band was a little stereotypical with a nerdy drummer, reclusive bassist, over the top self-absorbed singer, angry girl guitarist and pretty girl who knows nothing. Even with the stereotypes though I still enjoyed them. There is also this whole journey to learn about rock legends like Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. I liked the journey but I can’t believe someone wouldn’t know who Kurt Cobain was especially living in Seattle. Didn’t seem very realistic to me. After all he is mentioned on every MTV and VH1 special imaginable. I also thought the ending was pretty predictable. It left no problem unsolved and no bad guy unpunished. I like my endings a little more vague than this.

But this book is still excellent and worth the read. I devoured it and really enjoyed Piper’s story.

04. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Paranormal, Romance

Time Untime by Sherrilyn Kenyon , read by Angie, on 08/31/2012

This book is about Kateri and Ren and the Mayan end times. If you think that sounds familiar you are right. Sundown’s book covered a lot of the same ground. They are basically from the same pantheon and this one covers some of the same ground and characters as the other. That isn’t to say it is bad just not one of Kenyon’s better books.

I really had a hard time with this one because of the writing style. The story is told mainly through backflash visions by Kateri. These seem to pop up every couple of pages and could be triggered by anything. They would go on for several pages right in the middle of dialog or important scenes. I found this storytelling style weak and jarring. I am not sure it was necessary and it really seemed weird sometimes the things that would trigger one of the visions. I am not sure Ren or Kateri are Kenyon’s best couple either. He was just so pathetic it was hard to read about him. You can have a character with a horrible past who is still strong (Acheron anyone), but Ren never seemed strong to me. He was a victim throughout the entire book. I am not sure what Kateri saw in him frankly. Seemed like a lot of lust instead of love to me. All the flashbacks also seemed to muddy the story. It was hard to figure out what was going on since we kept flashing back and forth across time.

I still love Kenyon but think she can do much better than this.

04. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

The Glass Swallow by Julia Golding, read by Angie, on 08/31/2012

I had such high hopes for this book. I loved Dragonfly, but this one doesn’t live up to Ramil and Tashi’s story.

Rain is a glassmaker in hiding. Even though Ramil has taken over Holt and made lots of changes from when Fergox ruled, girls are still not allowed in the glassmaker guild. Her father hides her talent until an opportunity comes to send a glassmaker to a new land. Rain goes and is promptly caught in a bandit raid. She is the only survivor and is rescued by Peri. He is a falconer but considered unclean by the citizens of the city. He drops her off at the gates expecting her to be taken care of. Of course she isn’t. Then total chaos reigns over the city and Peri has to rescue Rain again. Together they must help forge a new land out of the ashes of the old.

This was an interesting story and Golding has written it well. Unfortunately not a lot actually happens in the story and Rain and Peri are not the most likeable characters. Rain is perfect unfortunately and solves every problem by making glass. Peri is pushy and total alpha-male. I don’t know why they fall in love but they do rather quickly. This book doesn’t have the danger or intrigue of Dragonfly; however, it is a nice story.

04. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Paranormal, Teen Books

Department Nineteen by Will Hill, read by Angie, on 08/31/2012

I really like vampire books and this one had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, I don’t think it panned out. About page 150 I was asking myself if I really wanted to read this book. Then I skipped about 200 pages and read the end. I don’t feel like I really missed anything. The book wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t my favorite either. I couldn’t care less about the main character Jamie Campbell and I had certain plot points correctly pegged in the first 100 pages. I was bored with it, which is saying something when you have an action packed book about vampires. I may go back and read that middle section but I wouldn’t bet on it. Too many other books waiting to be read.

04. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books

Dragonfly by Julia Golding, read by Angie, on 08/30/2012

Prince Ramil is told he has to marry Princess Taoshira of the Blue Crescent Islands. He is not happy about this and neither is she. She seems cold and emotionless and he seems reckless and uncouth. But for the sake of their countries they are betrothed. Then while out riding they are kidnapped and taken to Fergox Spearthrower who is the enemy of both lands. Together they must find a way to escape and bring peace to the land.

I really enjoyed this one. Lots of conflict and action, good pacing in the plot, and good romance story. Definitely a worthwhile YA read. Has more mature points – though they aren’t explicitly stated – that may not be suited for younger audiences. Kind of reminded me of the Tortall world created by Tamora Pierce.

04. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Dystopia, Fantasy, Fiction

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann, read by Angie, on 08/27/2012

In Quill everyone is sorted into three categories: Wanteds who go on to rule the country, Necessaries who do all the menial work, and Unwanteds who are sent to their deaths in the Lake of Boiling Oil. Alex has always known he will be an Unwanted and his twin brother Aaron will be a Wanted. But the shock of being sent to his death still hurts until he finds out that Unwanteds are not killed. They live in a magical world called Artime. There they use their creativity to learn magic and prepare for a coming war against the Wanteds.

I had mixed feelings about this book. As with any dystopian novel I want the world to make sense and this world just didn’t at times. For one thing, Quill has fallen into disrepair and segregation within 50 years. The world is crumbling around these people yet they have shut away all emotions and become evil robots basically. They have no problem sending their children off to die. Artime is a land of plenty and filled with magic and magical creatures. How do these two worlds exist side by side? I also didn’t like that being creative was evil to the people of Quill and they only defined creative as being of the arts. All the Wanteds seem cold and evil, but they are still able to think for themselves and solve problems (in creative ways?). I am not sure I buy that the world can devolve and diverge in such a short amount of time. And in the end magic triumphs rather easily over reason. Why let the world go on as it was for 50 years if it was that easy to solve everything?

That being said I really enjoyed the story. I love the characters and I enjoyed the magic of Artime. I like that the magic spells are those created from the arts: deadly rhyming couplets, invisible paintbrushes, etc. I thought that was really creative. I also enjoyed that the kids in Artime were real kids with real emotions and problems. Alex truly loves his brother and wants to be with him. In order to accomplish that he makes mistakes and alienates his friends. The other kids are equally flawed and perfect.

This was a quick, fun read and if you can get past the world-building one I am sure kids will enjoy.

04. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Paranormal, Teen Books

The Calling (Darkness Rising #2) by Kelley Armstrong, read by Angie, on 08/25/2012

The Calling picks up right were The Gathering ended. Maya and the gang are on the run from the Cabal and the forest fire. If you don’t remember the first book that is just too bad because there is no recapping in this book. There is a whole lot of nothing going on here. It seems like a fill-the-gap book. Armstrong wanted a trilogy and this is the filler book. The kids are running through the forest, escaping from the Cabal and doing the same thing over again. We don’t get a lot of character or plot development here. Sure some things are revealed but not a whole book’s worth. I know this series and the Darkest Powers one are going to meet up in the next book (Chloe’s group is mentioned in passing) but I feel like a lot of things are weaker replicas of what happened in the Darkest Powers book. I wish there were a few more differences in the plots because right now I am not sure I see the point of this series.

02. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Historical Fiction, Tracy

The Painted Bridge by Wendy Wallace, read by Tracy, on 09/01/2012

If you look up the definition of Female Hysteria it gives several meanings. One is “a tendency to cause trouble” This book is about a woman who was sent to a mental institute in Victorian England because her husband, a vicar,  thought she was causing him trouble. Anna Palmer was held prisoner there like many other women and given horrible treatments to help cure her of hysteria.The owner of Lake House lives on the grounds with his family. His daughter Caroline is having her own problems but when his wife tries to seek his help he ignores the situation. He clearly doesn’t qualify to run an asylum for women of a delicate nature and is only interested in the money. Caroline and Anna meet one day and decide they need to escape. To Anna the view of a painted bridge from her small window is the only hope for escape she has. This book for me was very frustrating since Anna was clearly not hysterical and it seemed all the men in this book thought women in those days needed to be cured by being sent away from their families.  The worst of them was a photographer who thought if he took pictures of these women he could reveal their mental state.