15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

Smoke by Ellen Hopkins, 543 pages, read by Courtney, on 07/24/2013

In spite of the fact that “Burned” was not my favorite of Hopkins’ books (a statement which will likely get me in trouble with many of my teens, for whom this is a much-beloved favorite), I was still anxious to read “Smoke”, its sequel. It had never occurred to me that there might even be a sequel to “Burned”, which so clearly stood on its own, but then, well, Ellen went and wrote a sequel.
This picks up more or less where “Burned” left off. Pattyn Von Stratten is now on the run after the death of her father. She has nowhere to go and no one left to turn to. She meets a girl her age who agrees to put her up for the night. There, Pattyn meets the rest of the girl’s family- all immigrants. In spite of the cultural differences, Pattyn begins to feel more at home with this new family than her real one.
In the meantime, Pattyn’s sister, Jackie, is still at home with the rest of the family and dealing with the aftermath of what happened in the family garage that fateful night. With Pattyn gone, Jackie has no one left to turn to. She’s not even remotely upset about what happened to her father, but she cannot accept her mother’s failure to acknowledge the trauma that Jackie has endured. The family’s continued adherence to the LDS church means that the family secrets are not to be discussed. Gradually, Jackie’s pain turns to anger as she begins to heal with the help of a new boyfriend.
This is a relatively tame book for those who are familiar with Hopkins’ oeuvre. The main themes center around the aftermath of abuse. This is, ultimately, a survivor’s tale. Pattyn and Jackie each have very different approaches to healing their psychological wounds, but each does so in a way that feels true to their character. There are times when the narrative drags, but readers who loved Burned will undoubtedly love meeting back up with the Von Stratten sisters and will rejoice in their triumphs over their troubling family situation.

I received this ARC from the publisher at the ALA Annual Conference. Smoke officially publishes in September 2013.

15. February 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

To Be Perfectly Honest: A Novel Based on an Untrue Story by Sonya Sones, 496 pages, read by Courtney, on 07/15/2013

Colette is the daughter of a major Hollywood actress and has developed a knack for lying to escape from her mother’s shadow. She’s known for lying about anything and everything. Colette and her little brother even make a game of pretending its their birthday at restaurants to score free desert. When Colette’s summer plans are abruptly cancelled due to her mother’s filming schedule, Colette is convinced it’s going to be the worst summer ever. On the way to the middle-of-nowhere town that the filming is taking place in, Colette spots a gorgeous guy on a motorcycle and decides that maybe summer won’t be so terrible after all. She is even more pleased when biker-guy begins to pay attention to her. Colette worries, however, that her mother’s fame will ruin this relationship just as it has so many others, so she lies about her age and background. What Colette doesn’t count on is that her new boyfriend may be hiding a few secrets of his own.
This is the quintessential fun summer read. Since it’s written in verse, the story moves extremely quickly. Colette is fun and sarcastic, if a bit naive. Her little brother is charming, though his lisping quickly starts to feel like a cutesy convention. Readers may see the twist coming, but will likely be entertained enough by the humor and pacing to forgive the somewhat cliched ending.

This novel comes out in late August. I received this ARC from the publisher at the ALA Annual Conference.

11. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Multicultural Fiction, Poetry, Rachel, Teen Books

Becoming Billie Holiday by Carole Boston Weatherford, 117 pages, read by Rachel, on 12/09/2013

Before the legend of Billie Holiday, there was a girl named Eleanora. In 1915, Sadie Fagan gave birth to a daughter she named Eleanora. The world, however, would know her as Billie Holiday, possibly the greatest jazz singer of all time. Eleanora’s journey into legend took her through pain, poverty, and run-ins with the law. By the time she was fifteen, she knew she possessed something that could possibly change her life—a voice. Eleanora could sing. Her remarkable voice led her to a place in the spotlight with some of the era’s hottest big bands. Billie Holiday sang as if she had lived each lyric, and in many ways she had. Through a sequence of raw and poignant poems, award-winning poet Carole Boston Weatherford chronicles Eleanora Fagan’s metamorphosis into Billie Holiday. The author examines the singer’s young life, her fight for survival, and the dream she pursued with passion in this Coretta Scott King Author Honor winner. With stunning art by Floyd Cooper, this book provides a revealing look at a cultural icon.

I loved this book of poetry! It was a quick read, but full of biographical information on one my favorite jazz singers. The illustrations were beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.


06. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

Odette's Secrets by Maryann Macdonald, 240 pages, read by Courtney, on 10/10/2013

Odette is a young Jewish girl living in Paris at the beginning of World War II. When the Nazis invade, her father is arrested and sent off to prison camp. In an effort to keep Odette safe, her mother sends her to the countryside where Odette will learn to blend in with the Christian community there. She learns to pose as a Catholic, learning prayers and attending mass. All the while, she must keep her Jewish identity a secret to avoid capture by the Germans. Odette has become exceedingly good at keeping secrets and considers this just one more to add to the list. Eventually, Odette begins to feel at home in the countryside. Back in Paris, she had been bullied and harassed for her Jewish background even though her family were not practicing Jews. In the country, Odette is perceived as a Christian and thus “fits in” with her new friends, but she knows she must never talk about who or what she really is.
This is a lovely novel-in-verse about a family doing whatever it takes to survive under extremely challenging circumstances. It is also based on a true story. Odette spends nearly the entirety of the war in the countryside which makes for some discomfort on her mother’s behalf. Odette’s identity begins to shift the longer she is away from her parents. Is she playing the part of a Catholic girl, or is she actually becoming one?

26. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Poetry

Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet by Andrea Cheng, 160 pages, read by Angie, on 09/25/2013

Dave was a potter and a slave in South Carolina before the Civil War. He was sold among members of the Drake family as they built their Pottersville Stoneware Manufacturing company. Dave teaches himself to read and write and writes poems and sayings on the pots he creates even though he could be whipped for it. Little is known about Dave and few of his pots survive. Andrea Cheng has tried to piece his story together through poems in the voices of Dave, his wives and his owners. It is an interesting look at the life of a little known figure from history.

10. September 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Informational Book, NonFiction, Poetry

Cowboy Up!: Ride the Navajo Rodeo by Nancy Bo Flood, Jan Sonnemair, 40 pages, read by Angie, on 09/10/2013

The rodeo comes to life in this book. We live through an entire rodeo from setup to takedown. Each event is introduced by the rodeo announcer, a poem gives life to the event, and an explanation is given on the event. We learn about sheep riding, bronco busting, barrel racing, steer wrestling and rodeo clowns. The history of the rodeo is given as is its importance in Native American and Western culture. This book is very informative and interesting. It will make you want to go see a rodeo!

20. August 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Poetry, Reviewer, Short Stories · Tags: ,

Welcome to Bordertown : new stories and poems of the Borderlands by ed Holly Black and Ellen Kushner ; introduction by Terri Windling. Neil Gaiman, 516 pages, read by Kira, on 08/18/2013

wel bordtbordt lives  The premise of the series of bordtown wallinterlinked short stories is that the in-between town aka Bordertown where elves essential_border_cover_artand hret bordumans can co-exist has been closed to travel between the realms for the last 13 bordtown livesyears, and has now opened up again [its also been 13 years since the previous Bordertown collection of short stories].  What was 13 days in bord townBordertown itself, was 13 years in the World (of humans).  The short stories are really a mixed bag.  A couple focused on the theme of immigrants in the US.  Many focused on the problem of Elf borderland_cover_secondSuperiority – or the racism of the elves.

I didn’t care for  Ours bordtonnis the Prettiest by Nalo Hopkinson (didn’t really fit in this world), nor We do NOT come in Peace by Christopher Barzak (protagonist is soo depressed).  But most disappointing was the Neil Gaiman piece was just a short poem, and imho not a very good one, I couldn’t wait til black-coat-elfit ended.bordertown__when_you_give_an_elf__

30. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa, Poetry · Tags:

Hidden by Helen Frost, 147 pages, read by Lisa, on 07/16/2013

When Wren Abbott and Darra Monson are eight years old, Darra’s father steals a minivan. He doesn’t know that Wren is hiding in the back. The hours and days that follow change the lives of both girls. Darra is left with a question that only Wren can answer. Wren has questions, too.

Years later, in a chance encounter at camp, the girls face each other for the first time. They can finally learn the truth – that is, if they’re willing to reveal to each other the stories that they’ve hidden for so long. Told from alternating viewpoints, this novel-in-poems reveals the complexities of memory and the strength of a friendship that can overcome pain.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Janet, Poetry

You Come Too by Robert Frost, 94 pages, read by Janet, on 04/23/2013

These are favorite poems for young readers by Robert Frost.  Being simple, direct, often outdoors related poems, this was a pleasent book to read.  Robert Frost looked with understanding on the people, animals, and scenery around him.  Many of his best-known poems are in this collection: “Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening”, “The Death of the Hired Man”, and “The Road Not Taken”.  He said that a poem “begins with delight” and that feeling runs through his poetry.You Come Too

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Janet, Poetry

Edna St. Vincent Millay - Selected Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay, 162 pages, read by Janet, on 04/23/2013

Edna St. Vincent millay was a very intellectual, sophisticated poet whose work involves a bit more deep thinking than most work I have been reading lately.  She projects unhappiness in many of her poems, perhaps from her feminist or political unrest with society, or her decline in health in later years.  She has been described as “a militantly political feminist” yet is able to present love as a passionate surrender in some poEdna St. Vincent Millayems.  Her poems asre not fast reading, but give much feeling and information as digested.

14. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Joyce, Poetry, Teen Books

Learning to Swim: A Memoir by Ann Turner, 115 pages, read by Joyce, on 04/25/2013

Six-year-old Annie’s world is shattered when she is forced to carry a horrible secret: Under the pretense of reading to her, an older boy molests her, threatening her if she ever tells. Only when her mother pries out the secret is Annie released from her horror and isolation. Slowly she begins to heal, and before the summer is over, she even learns to swim.

02. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Kim B, Poetry

Dream Work by Mary Oliver, 90 pages, read by Kim B, on 05/02/2013

Mary Oliver’s poems are alright but she’s definitely not my favorite poet.

02. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Kim B, Poetry

Sweet Home, Saturday Night by David Baker, 94 pages, read by Kim B, on 05/01/2013

Great poems and a fast read!

02. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Mystery, Poetry, Tammy

Who Killed Mr. Chippendale by Mel Glenn, 100 pages, read by Tammy, on 04/13/2013

who killed mrA collection of poems that start with the thoughts of our murder victim, high school teacher, Mr. Chippendale, right before his untimely demise. Each poem that follows is the thoughts or police interview with students, teachers, neighbors and the police detectives themselves. The finale poem reveals who the murderer is with clues along the way in the poems to point you in that direction.

02. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Poetry, Tammy

Songs of a Sun Lover by Robert Service, 184 pages, read by Tammy, on 04/30/2013

A collection of poems from Robert Service who is best known for his poems set in the Yukon such as “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” and “The Cremation of Sam McGee”. Most of the poems in this collection are set around his home in Ireland and with everyday experiences and people. They still tell a clear story and he pulls you into the lives of the poems’ narrators.

30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Kira, NonFiction, Poetry

My brother's book by Maurice Sendak, 31 pages, read by Kira, on 04/28/2013

SendakPoetry.  sendak-233This was a book about longing to be reunited with those you’ve loved.  I had to read it 3 times through, to get a full sense of the narrative.  Even then, the poetic lines are open to multiple interpretatsendak grions, feeling like the mist slipping through ones fingers.

30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Multicultural Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

The Good Braider by Terry Farish, 213 pages, read by Courtney, on 04/20/2013

Viola lives with her mother and young brother in war-torn Sudan. All the men are either dead or fighting and soldiers prowl throughout the town, taking whatever they wish. After Viola is raped by one of these soldiers, the family decides to attempt a move to America. First they must travel out of Sudan and into Egypt, where they live in a refugee camp while waiting for the appropriate documents. It takes many long months to get the paperwork in order, but they are finally able to travel to America. Viola and her mother move to Portland, Maine, where a large Sudanese population has already been established. There, Viola attempts to piece her life back together while trying to balance life as both a girl from Juba and her new life as an American teen.
Told entirely in spare, lyrical verse, this novel is lovely addition to the immigrant-story genre. Viola’s experiences are painful, but her hope is palpable. This story sheds light on a part of the world that many American teens spend little time thinking about. The trajectory that Viola’s life takes is breathtaking, realistic and honest. We, as Americans, are so used to thinking about a country’s borders as something writ in stone, however, the borders of many countries in Africa are more or less arbitrary and were imposed largely by Western colonialist powers. Thus, when civil war breaks out, it is not necessarily because the country is divided, more that the country was never exactly unified in the first place. In fact, this story takes place shortly before South Sudan gains its independence. Readers will feel for Viola as she struggles not only to survive the journey out of Sudan but as she attempts to reconcile the cultural differences she must face as a new American. A moving and memorable read.

30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fiction, Poetry

Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge, 88 pages, read by Courtney, on 04/10/2013

Here’s one that’s a must-read for more mature fans of fairy tales. Koertge takes well-known stories from the fairy tale cannon and turns them completely on their heads. In poetry form. Which is totally awesome. Many authors have difficulty getting their point across in 400 pages. Ron Koertge can tell a complete story in a single poem. And this book has tons of them! I loved these post-modern renditions; they feel simultaneously both truer to their original forms than many other modern adaptations and feel more contemporary than ever before. A fun, thought-provoking and fast read.

30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Kim B, Poetry · Tags:

Crossing the Water by Sylvia Plath, 56 pages, read by Kim B, on 04/30/2013

Crossing the Water is some of Plath’s best work!

30. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams, 496 pages, read by Angie, on 04/29/2013

Hope and Lizzie have always been the closest of sisters. Then one day Hope catches Lizzie with a gun. Suddenly, Lizzie is in the hospital and Hope doesn’t know why. She doesn’t know why Lizzie tried to kill herself or why she has been crying at night for the last few months. Her mom has secrets too. Secrets she is scared of people finding out. Their mom has been a prostitute for a while now; she says it is better money than working at the Piggly-Wiggly and she needs money now that dad is gone. Slowly, over the course of the summer, Hope finds out what happened to Lizzie and her whole world changes.

Novels in verse are somehow more powerful than regular novels. The sparse text has to convey so much and that gives it more weight and meaning some how. Hope and Lizzie’s story is a tragic one. You will guess Lizzie’s secret long before Hope, but like Hope you hope it isn’t true. How can a mother be that evil, that heartless towards her own child? Truly powerful story that can be read in a very short period of time. It will break your heart, but it is worth it.