22. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Dystopia, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell, read by Angie, on 08/22/2014

The year is 2049 and humanity is becoming infertile. Very few babies are being born which has led to “the troubles”. In order to end the troubles, a company called Oxted started manufacturing robot babies. Parents can adopt the babies and pretend everything is normal. The children go back to Oxted periodically for upgrades so they can seem to grow. No one is supposed to know who is a robot and who is a human kid even the kids themselves. However, during the teen years the robot kids sometimes do something that breaks the veneer of humanity and the parents can’t deal so they send them back to Oxted. Doesn’t really matter anyway because all the kids have to be returned at 18 to be recycled. What a lovely future!

Tania is 11 when the book starts. She thinks she is human until she falls into the Thames and doesn’t drown. Once she realizes she is a robot she embraces her robothood (after a few days of cranky). She has made friends with John and Sian and together they form a band; later they are joined by Kieran to round out the sound. Tania starts exploring the TelNet (internet) to see what she can find out about Oxted and what is going on with humanity; however, this plot point doesn’t last very long. The novel is told through Tania’s diary entries in which she writes to a future alien Mr. Zog. Of course Mr. Zog answers her posts from the future where he is reading about earth in some kind of archive. 

The story is pretty slow and drags a lot as we are just hearing Tania’s side of the story and she is mostly talking about her day-to-day life. The idea of the book was an intriguing one but the execution was pretty terrible. None of the characters actually seemed like real people to me; they didn’t talk like real people or act like real people. Maybe it was because most of them were robots but I think it was more poor writing. The world building was atrocious. This is set only 35 years in the future, which isn’t really that long, and yet the world has fallen apart. There is no explanation as to why fertility has disappeared or how the robot babies were accepted so quickly. Other than the robots, technology doesn’t seem to have advanced very much either. Other than the fact that there doesn’t appear to be any real book or music or movies anymore because everything is digital. I also thought it was really interesting (kind of dumb) that everyone seemed to only listen to 70s rock bands???? Lots of music was mentioned throughout the book but very little of it was post-1980. Why? The end did not make reading the whole book worth it at all. I wanted more from this story and was really disappointed that I didn’t get it.

19. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Science Fiction, Teen Books, Teen Books · Tags: ,

Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves., read by Kira, on 08/19/2014

interworld-by-neil-gaiman-and-michael-reaves Inter_World917 itrs 8dd7103b2bb3074baa5d7ad59f963f3a Interworld-neil-gaiman-1548448-258-410 interwrld Interworld_by_Neil_Gaiman_and_Michael_Reaves_200_312 50130_interworldThe setting is the Multiverse or all the different possible versions of realities our world could have taken. Two factions at opposite ends of the multiverse continuum are fighting for supremacy, destroying worlds with impunity.

In our world Joey Harker takes a wrong turn, and first winds up in a world very similar to our own, except that his mother has a fake arm, and her offspring is a girl Josephine, who looks very much like him, just a female version.  In the next world, it turns out he drowned in the river a couple years ago, instead of having a close brush with death, and getting a huge lecture from his father on water safety.  Another look-alike Joe Harker look-alike J is sent to rescue Joey Harker before the warring factions can use his soul for energy in their never-ending war.  The Joe Harker look-alikes vary widely from girls with wings, to cyborgs with implants.  This was a quick and enjoyable read.  It leaves room for a sequel.  Lastly, I liked the mudluff sidekick.

19. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Teen Books

Wings by Aprilynne Pike, read by Kira, on 08/07/2014

Protagonist Laurel discovers that she isn’t human, but rather a plant belonging to the fairy kingdom.  Her family has recently moved into town, in part so that Laurel attend a school (instead of being homeschooled), and in part so her father can open and run his dream business a bookstore.  At school she meets David, a calm, smart, good-looking guy.  Then she starts growing a flower from her back.

This was a nice book, a bit predictable, in the plot line, and David and Laurel modeled near-perfect interpersonal interactions, a nice change, if a little unrealistic.  I will Not be reading further into this series, and only “picked up” this book, because choices in downloadable books are limited.wings  XMix7p6N50lraY1LfPibuO3H1Os wings-aprilynne-pike-5966588-348-500th

18. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Homeland by Cory Doctorow, read by Angie, on 08/17/2014

This is the second Cory Doctorow book I have read and it scared me and made me paranoid just like the first one. Homeland is a followup to Little Brother and follows the same character of Marcus. Marcus and his girlfriend Ange are at Burning Man when they are given a USB stick with confidential information on it and later watch the couple who gave them the info taken away by paramilitary thugs. Back in San Francisco Marcus has to figure out what to do with the thousands of documents full of incriminating information. He is also starting a new job and trying to deal with the fact that his parents have both lost their jobs. There is a lot going on in this book and I will admit that I didn’t understand the majority of the techno jargon. What I did understand was enough to make me paranoid and leary of everything I have ever done online. The scariest part is that this is not fiction; stuff like this is happening around the world as we speak. Cory Doctorow is truly terrifying and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if someone was hacking him and watching his every move. 

17. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Fantasy, Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton, read by Angie, on 08/17/2014

The old gods walk among us in the United States of Asgard. They are real and they are everywhere. Soren Bearskin is pledged to Odin as a berserker. It is a family legacy he does not want and fights against. Astrid Glyn is a seether pledged to Freya. She reads the future through visions and prophecy. When Balder the Beautiful fails to rise Soren and Astrid team up to find him and bring him back to the world. Their journey will take them all over the United States of Asgard. They find Baldor but he is not the god they know. They have to take him to find Idun’s apple orchard so he can remember the go he was. Their journey is not without its dangers and they are not prepared for the end. 

I really like books that bring mythology to the modern age and this one doesn’t disappoint. It is an interesting if sometimes confusing new world. I like that the Norse gods came to America and pretty much took over and made it their own; however, there wasn’t enough world building for me in this book. I wanted to know how they came here and when and how the United States of Asgard was formed. I truly enjoyed Soren and Astrid’s journey and Baldor was a hoot. I think this is a good start to a series, but I hope the future books explain a little bit more about the world other than giving places new names. 

16. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Steam-punk, Teen Books · Tags:

The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress , read by Angie, on 08/16/2014

Three female assistants in 1900 London come together over a rash of murders and burglaries. Cora is the assistant of Lord White, a prominent member of the House of Commons and an inventor. Nellie is the assistant of The Great Raheem, a premiere magician and illusionist. Michiko is the assistant of Sir Callum Fielding-Shaw, a self-defense instructor who thinks he knows more than he does. They first meet at a gala where they all perform and then again on a foggy London street at the scene of a murder. They keep meeting again and again and finally join forces to investigate the murders and strange happenings around town. 

This was a really fun book to read. I thought the steampunk atmosphere was subtle yet fit right into the story that was being told. I liked that the historical period was present but not overwhelming as well. It made it easier to focus on the outstanding characters. Cora, Nellie and Michiko were fabulously written and a lot of fun to read. They each had their own voices and motivations which came clearly through on the page. I did think the mystery got just a bit wonky, but it all worked out in the end. 

15. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Cross My Heart by Sasha Gould, read by Angie, on 08/14/2014

Laura has been living in a convent ever since her father put her there. She is surprised when he pulls her out and sends her back home. Turns out her beautiful sister Beatrice has drowned and Laura is to take her place. She is to marry Vincenzo, Beatrice’s betrothed, who turns out to be an old, lecherous man. She is recruited by The Segreta. In return for a secret, they will help her get out of her betrothal to Vincenzo. The plan works, but Laura feels like she might now be in an even worse situation. The Segreta is a group of women who control the secrets of Venice. If they can topple great men like Vincenzo what else can they do? Laura also finds herself drawn to an artist she meets. Giacomo makes her think about love, but a marriage can never happen as long as her father wants to use her to make connections. 

This was a fast-paced, fun novel. I liked the glimpse of Renaissance Venice and actually wished there would have been more. I also enjoyed the idea of The Segreta and the power the women yielded. The story does get a bit complicated by all the twists and turns and some of those are a bit far-fetched, but the story is still fun. The one thing that kept throwing me off however was the name of the main character. Everyone in the book has names like Bianca and Vincenzo and Giacomo and Allegra, but the main character is named Laura which seems so far from a traditional Italian name. Even changing it to a more Italian sounding Loretta would have helped. A name is a picky thing but it did seem very English in an Italian setting.

13. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Kira, Teen Books · Tags:

Dragon Outcast - Age of Fire Bk 3 by E.E. Knight., read by Kira, on 08/12/2014

dragon 550px-LineoftheSiblings2drgsn  This was an enjoyable read.  Rugard, the protagonist, loses the clutch-war, which occurs between all the males as soon as they hatch.  He is crippled and survives just barely.  After a long journey aided by bats to the Lavadome, he finds a haven of sorts.  Here the danger lurks in the form of political alliances and deception.

This is a fast-paced engaging, hard-to-put-down, story.  It tackles a variety of themes from family relationships to slavery,and racism.  I look forward to the other titles in the series.  I had no trouble starting with book 3, the author has done a good job, of making them accessible as “stand-alones”.

11. August 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Apocalyptic, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

The Rule of Three by Eric Walters, read by Angie, on 08/10/2014

Adam is helping his friend Todd with a paper in their high school computer lab when all the sudden the power goes out. And it is not just out in the school, but all over town and the world. Turns out everything with a computer chip is fried. Fortunately, Adam has a pre-computer car and is able to get home. His mom is a police captain and his dad is an airline pilot stuck in Chicago. His neighbor Herb is an ex-CIA operative (never stated but assumed) who is ready for the apocalypse and quickly takes charge. Soon their neighborhood has checkpoints and a census of people’s skills and walls to protect them. The world has ended but these people can still be good people and help each other out. Of course there are bad people out there. People are fleeing the cities and turning on each other. 

This book reminded me so much of the TV show Revolution. Of course this covers the beginning of the power failure not several years in and there are no supernatural elements. I thought it was frighteningly realistic in its portrayal of what would happen if everything went dark. People would not be prepared and there would be panic. I liked all the details of how the neighborhood came together and how they organized themselves. However, I did think there were a few things that were just too good to be true. Herb for one is a fabulous character but so over the top prepared and knowledgeable that it seemed almost unrealistic. I also thought it was interesting that their neighborhood never really suffered. They had plenty of doctors and security and weaponry and know-how to make everything almost normal. It was like the best possible group of people lived in the same neighborhood so they could survive the apocalypse together. I was also a little disappointed in the conflict with the “bad” group. I was expecting to read about an actual conflict but again it was the best possible outcome for our intrepid group. I really enjoyed the book and thought it was fairly realistic for an apocalypse story; however, I wanted the realism to extend into the characters and their circumstance which didn’t happen. 

07. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Science Fiction, Teen Books · Tags:

Don't Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski, read by Angie, on 08/07/2014

Homeroom 10B got there flu shots one day. By the next day they could hear other people’s thoughts. They were confused, afraid and more than a little thrilled with their new super powers. It turns out hearing other people’s thoughts has its good and bad points. We find out that Mackenzie cheated on Cooper, Cooper’s parents are getting a divorce, that Teddy doesn’t really like Tess like she likes him. There are no secrets safe from the espies (as they call themselves). Some want to continue with their secret, others want to tell someone and get help. Do they all have to stick together?

This book was a lot of fun. Sure the kids are your typical high school kids: a bit whiny, a bit selfish, a bit horny, but they are highly entertaining. I liked the mix of personalities and reactions to getting ESP. I didn’t realize this was the start of a series when I picked it up but it could be a very entertaining one. Not a lot of substance to the story, but a lot of fun. 

07. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Brian, Fiction, Teen Books

Allegiant by Veronica Roth, read by Brian, on 08/06/2014

alliegenAllegiant, is the final book of the Divergent series.  Power struggles and violence has destroyed the fraction-based society.  Tris, Four and others venture outside the fence for a more peaceful society.  What they find is shocking and appalling and new problems arise and our heroes must find a way to make the dystopian world whole or at least die trying.

 

06. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Fiction, Leslie, Teen Books

Fragments by Dan Wells, read by Leslie, on 07/21/2014

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After discovering the cure for RM, Kira Walker sets off on a terrifying journey into the ruins of postapocalyptic America and the darkest desires of her heart in order to uncover the means—and a reason—for humanity’s survival.

While we have gotten a lot of gadgets from science fiction stories as life imitates art, I can only hope that we never see stories of post apocalyptic earth ever come true.  The series is definitely a story of perseverance and the human spirit never giving up.  A thrilling, can’t wait to see what happens next, kind of story, a good young adult series.

06. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Paranormal, Teen Books

Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore, read by Courtney, on 07/13/2014

Thea’s father died in battle and her mother suffers from a magic curse known as “bound sickness”, so keeping the small family afloat has fallen to Thea. She and many other young women work at as waitresses at a high-end club called “The Telephone Club”. It is here where she met her one and only friend, Nan. It’s also where she meets a boy her age named Freddy, with whom she has discovered an odd connection: when she touches him, they both drop into a vision of Thea’s father being raised from the dead. If this is the case, it would certainly explain the bound sickness her mother, among others, suffers from. In this version of 1930′s Berlin, the more provincial residents still engage in a practice where husband and wife are magically bound until death. The binding is supposed to go away when one of the pair dies, but for many, the belief that their spouses are alive has caused a form of madness to take over their lives. Thea is intrigued by this connection to young Freddy, but is quickly far more concerned with the inexplicable disappearance of Nan. In the meantime, the reader is treated to Freddy’s point of view, where it is revealed that Freddy is being used by other, more powerful men to raise the dead for purposes that are not, at the outset, entirely clear. Freddy believes they are being returned to their families, but the vision he shares with Thea indicates that this is not the case. Together, Freddy and Thea begin to investigate and discover that there is far more going on behind the scenes than they ever could have thought possible.
Dark Metropolis certainly has an intriguing setting and some great, if not entirely unique, characters. The world building could have been stronger, particularly since we are experiencing an alternate history where many of the rules that govern our experience in our world do not apply in this one. I honestly just wanted to hear more about what this version of Berlin (ostensibly modeled loosely on Fritz Lang’s Metropolis) would look and feel like. Additionally, there is some sort of political discontent that winds up feeling generic since we never really find out what issues at the heart of it are. Thea, Nan and Freddy are interesting enough characters. Thea is the long-suffering, keeps-the-family-together sort. Freddy is a boy with a mysterious past who is suffering for his magical talent. Nan is the rabble-rousing, spirited best friend who does, admittedly, wind up in very unusual circumstances. They’re all likeable and fun to read, but I’ve seen characters very similar to these before and their trajectory is fairly predictable. Overall, though, this was a fun spin on zombies/necromancy with a really cool setting.

06. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn, read by Courtney, on 07/11/2014

When Jamie Henry’s sister, “Crazy Cate” Henry went to jail a couple of years ago, everyone was happy. Cate had been notorious on a number of levels. Guys loved her, girls hated her, parents were uncomfortable around her. The final straw was a horrific fire at the barn where many of the town’s wealthy stabled their horses. The fire destroyed the barn, killed horses and left a girl in the ICU. Cate plead guilty and went to jail. Jamie and his adoptive parents were left to rebuild their family in the aftermath of the terrible crime. Now, however, Cate is out of jail and everything that Jamie has worked for, namely, a sense of normalcy in the face of a town that holds him almost as responsible as his sister for the crimes committed, is about to go out the window. Jamie’s had a tough time dealing with his sister’s absence, even if it does make life easier for the rest of the community. Jamie suffers from a condition that sounds an awful lot like a form of anxiety/panic and causes his hands and arms to lose all sensation. He even has special accommodations in place to get through a school day without the use of his arms. It had gotten better while Cate was in jail, but now that she’s out, the symptoms are back. Worse yet, Cate is calling Jamie and implying that she’s coming for him. Jamie is panicking – what does she want with him? Complicit is a short novel that packs quite a punch. Readers only have a small inkling of the circumstances surrounding Cate’s crime and the sibling’s past. Both Cate and Jamie are adopted and troubled, since their mother was killed before their eyes when they were young. They both see/have seen the same psychiatrist who has attempted to help both of them deal with their respective problems. As the novel unfolds, the reader gains insight into not only their past, but their relationship as well. The more we learn about Cate, the more we suspect that there’s more to her than meets the eye. Other mysteries pop up that apparently discredit the current interpretation of events. Then there’s the twist, and oh, what a twist. I had some suspicions regarding how things might play out, but I was still surprised by the end. This is an intense psychological thriller that doesn’t really feel like a thriller, which makes things all the more shocking in the end.

06. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Teen Books

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani, read by Courtney, on 07/08/2014

Sophie really, really wants to get kidnapped. As the rest of the town prepares to hide away their children before the School Master shows up to make his selection, Sophie is busy pulling the boards off the windows and readying her things. Every so often, the School Master sneaks through the small town, taking two children at a time; one good, the other evil. The kidnapped children are transported to The School for Good and Evil, never to be seen by their loved ones again. Unless they turn up in the storybooks that magically appear in the local bookstore. Agatha doesn’t believe in The School for Good and Evil. She’d much rather keep a low profile and continue living in the cemetery. Naturally, Agatha is a bit surprised when she sees a shadow whisking her only friend, Sophie, away. Agatha grabs onto Sophie and finds herself transported as well. Sophie is elated, until she is dropped off at the Evil school. Agatha is again surprised to find herself delivered to the Good school. Convinced that there’s been a clerical error of some sort, Sophie tries everything in her power to get herself into the School for Good. She doesn’t fit in with the Evil kids; Sophie would never dream of wearing black, after all. Agatha is in a similar situation. She’s uncomfortable with the frilly pink uniform and can’t fathom why all the other girls are so fixated on meeting their princes. It would appear, however, that once the decision has been made, there’s no going back, no matter how badly Sophie wants to end with her chosen prince. Poor Agatha wants nothing more than to go back home to her graveyard where she won’t have to deal with other people or wear pink everyday. Together, they try to find ways to either get back into the “correct” schools or go home.
This was such a cute book. It could easily have felt like a HP spin-off, but it never does. It incorporates tons of fairy tale tropes, but uses them in new or unconventional ways. The twist of the girls being in the “wrong” schools wasn’t a huge surprise, but it poses many interesting questions regarding the nature of good and evil. It’s obvious to the reader that Agatha is anything but evil, in spite of her appearance. Sophie is slightly more ambiguous. She comes across as shallow and inconsiderate, sure, but not necessarily evil. In fact, most of the “good” kids have very similar character traits. The Good school in general emphasizes the appearance of good while the Evil school seems more focused on mischief rather than anything truly evil. The point, of course, is that the kids are fulfilling the traditional roles in fairy tales, but the school presents its dual nature as a preservation of balance. I read this one for my middle school book group and the kids unanimously agreed that it was tons of fun. They loved the sense of humor and the offbeat plot. Frankly, I found it to be a refreshing change of pace in the magic/fairy tale genre.

06. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Paranormal, Teen Books

Croak by Gina Damico, read by Courtney, on 07/06/2014

At one point in time, Lex was a good kid. Now, she’s turned into a rage-filled delinquent. At a loss for what to do with her, Lex’s parents decide to send her off to her Uncle Mort’s place for the summer. Lex hates to part with her twin sister, but is given no choice in the matter. When Lex arrives in Croak, the small town Mort lives in, she discovers that any and all preconceived notions regarding her uncle were misplaced. As it turns out, Croak is a town exclusively for Reapers and her uncle is the mayor. Lex quickly discovers that not only does she have the ability to fulfill the role of a reaper, she’s actually quite talented at it. Just as she’s beginning to settle into a routine with her new partner, Driggs, something unusual begins to occur. Many of the lives Lex and co. have been sent to reap have an inexplicable cause of death. Lex and Driggs, along with their friends and Uncle Mort, make it their mission to find out more.
Croak was fairly amusing. The setting utilizes puns to a staggering degree and virtually every character is as sarcastic as the protagonist. The narrative moves quickly due to its sense of humor, but also suffers some when the humor starts to wear thin. I never felt like the characters were very well-developed. Lex’s “acting out” in the beginning feels antithetical to her character even before there’s any hint that being a violent kid somehow equates to a future as a reaper and, while she ceases to be particularly violent, there’s little other change in her character as the book progresses. Other characters are scarcely developed at all, particularly Lex’s twin sister, who appears to be included strictly for her scene at the very end. Most of my teens, however, loved this one. It was fun, but not fantastic.

06. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown, read by Courtney, on 07/03/2014

Jersey’s life changes forever as a massive tornado bears down on her hometown of Elizabeth, MO. Jersey’s mother and sister are at dance practice when the sirens go off. Jersey makes it down to the basement in the nick of time. After the storm, Jersey discovers that most of her neighborhood has been completely demolished; the roads are impassible and all means of communication have been disrupted. A day or two later, she finally finds her step-father, only to be told that her mother and sister are both dead. Even worse, her grief-stricken step-father wants nothing more to do with her and quickly dumps her off on her long-estranged father; the father who walked out years ago and never came back. Jersey has no real desire to get to know him or his side of the family, but she really has no choice. As it turns out, her father is still a drunk and has remarried (to another drunk) and lives with his parents, his sister, and her family. Jersey is given a “bedroom” on the screened-in back porch. She is almost immediately taunted by her cousins, neglected by her father and largely ignored by her new grandparents. There is no love in this house and certainly no sympathy for a girl who has just lost all the family she’s ever known. Things only continue to get worse at her paternal grandparent’s house, so Jersey tries to run off, only to be sent off to her maternal grandparents instead. Jersey has never met this set of grandparents either; they had disowned Jersey’s mother long ago. All Jersey wants is to go back home and try to rebuild with her friends and even her step-father, but, once again, it’s out of her hands. Now, still grieving and nursing the wounds of her time at her father’s, Jersey feels more isolated than ever. Her mother kept these people out of their lives for a reason and Jersey is convinced that her mother would not have wanted her to live with them. The longer Jersey stays there, however, Jersey begins to discover that there really might be more than one side to the story of her mother’s upbringing.
So many terrible things keep happening to poor Jersey. As though losing one’s home isn’t enough, losing nearly all the family she’s ever known and then being sent to live with strangers who have exactly zero empathy make this a pretty depressing read. Even the step-father suddenly turns into a massive jerk, taking himself out of Jersey’s life altogether and preventing her from attending the funerals. There’s a bit of light at the end of the book, but by the time it appears, readers will wonder whether Jersey is even capable of perceiving it anymore. Few of the characters are particularly well-developed and Jersey’s mother’s motivations behind isolating the family are never made explicitly clear. Nevertheless, readers will still pull for Jersey to make it out of this mess without it destroying her.

06. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Courtney, Teen Books

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer, read by Courtney, on 07/01/2014

A group of friends, Ethan, Elizabeth, Jackson, and Luke, are all seniors at Selwyn Academy, a prestigious art school and the filming site for the current season of “For Art’s Sake”, a competition-style reality show. No one in the group is competing in the show, but that doesn’t stop the show from interfering in their lives in a number of frustrating ways. Ethan, the narrator, accidentally witnesses the show being filmed and realizes that not only is the show impeding actual learning and creativity, it’s also mostly scripted. Ethan doesn’t hesitate to share this information with the group. When Luke’s critical review of the show is rejected by the school newspaper for being unfavorable to the show (and the school’s participation in it), the group decides they ought to do something to make a statement. It’s not until they begin studying Ezra Pound that they figure out how they’re going to make their statement. Inspired by Pound’s Cantos, the group creates the Contracantos, a delightfully funny and scathing long poem. They then illustrate, hand-letter, print, and distribute the first installment of the Contracantos. Then they wait for a reaction. Imagine their surprise when Luke, the poet of the group, is approached by the show’s producers and subsequently added as a contestant. With Luke gone and not speaking to the rest of the group, Ethan and his friends must find a way to carry on. Good thing they’ve got the help of a gerbil named Baconnaise, who will prove to be surprisingly heroic for a rodent.
I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Ethan and crew are an intelligent and sarcastic bunch. I can’t help but feel that the secondary characters could have been better developed, but they may also have been a stylistic choice as the narrator has difficulty viewing others as much more than an archetype. The idea of a reality show essentially taking over a school, no matter how artsy, is abhorrent to me. Of course, I’m not a fan of the reality show genre in the first place, so this book may have been preaching to the choir in that sense. It definitely has a satirical tone to it. The whole “vigilante” artist thing is quite clever even if it’s hard to imagine someone who writes poetry as being fodder for a reality show. A fun and engaging read, complete with amusingly-named house pets.

04. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Apocalyptic, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Teen Books, Thriller/Suspense

The Living by Matt de la Pena, read by Angie, on 08/04/2014

Shy is working on a Paradise Cruise ship when a man jumps overboard right in front of him. The story picks up on the next cruise and this time people are asking questions. A mysterious man in a suit starts asking about Shy and what the suicide victim might have said to him. Shy’s room is searched and the man keeps following him. We have no idea what this is about. Then a big storm approaches the cruise ship and we learn that “the Big One” has hit the west coast of America. A tsunami is headed towards the ship and in fact three waves hit and cause it to sink. Shy ends up on a broken lifeboat with no supplies. He rescues an older man and a young girl. The man has been bitten by a shark and eventually dies. The girl is a rich snob who picked on Shy on the ship. Addi and Shy have to come to terms with each other and fight to survive. Just when all hope is lost they are rescued and taken to a mysterious island where things just get even stranger. 

This book felt really disjointed like it wasn’t sure what kind of book it was going to be. The beginning was a realistic story about people from different backgrounds and socioeconomic status mingling on a ship and how they react to each other. The second part was pure apocalyptic with the earthquake and the tsunami and having to survive at sea. The end was a bit sci-fi mystery with the secret island and the weird scientists and the sickness infecting survivors. I think any of those books would have been interesting but together they were a bit of a mess. I wish the whole evil corporation bit would have been left off of the story because I think it would have been stronger with just the other two storylines. However, since this is the beginning of a series I guess you really needed somewhere to go. 

04. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novel, Paranormal, Teen Books · Tags:

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks, read by Angie, on 08/02/2014

Maggie is getting ready to start high school. She has been homeschooled and now must make the transition to public school. Her three older brothers are already there. Her dad is the new sheriff and her mom has taken off. And there is a ghost following her around. Maggie finds high school overwhelming and has a hard time making friends. The only people who will hang out with her are a brother/sister pair of punks. They become her group and they go to the movies and hang out. Of course her oldest brother doesn’t approve. Maggie has to navigate the mine field of high school and a home life that isn’t what it used to be. 

I really enjoy this graphic book. I thought Maggie’s experience with high school rang true. High school is overwhelming and scary to a lot of people and Maggie’s reactions completely mirrored that. I also liked the fact that Maggie and her brothers were portrayed very realistically. They fight, they have issues, but they stick together. I thought the ghost storyline was a bit confusing and I am not really sure what its purpose was other than to get Maggie and her friends in trouble.