Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Boy Book--E. Lockhart

Title: The Boy Book
Author: E. Lockhart
Pages: 193 p.
Publisher: Delacorte Press
ISBN: 0385732082

Ruby Oliver, star of The Boyfriend List, is back for more adventures in this funny sequel. Although she's not having panic attacks anymore Ruby is still seeing her shrink, Dr. Z. Things are looking slightly better for her--she's developed a friendship with a couple of people and her old friend Nora is talking to her again. But just when she thinks she's got her life somewhat back together her ex-best friend and boyfriend-stealer Kim comes back early from her trip to Japan and Ruby's panic attacks start up again.

If you liked The Boyfriend List, you'll like this one too. It's not entirely necessary to have read it though. Lockhart gives enough background info to let you know what happened in the first book without beating you over the head with it. Ruby is a funny flawed character and teen girls will definitely relate to her and her multiple problems with multiple boys. Junior High and High School girls (grades 8+) will especially like it.

Reading: Nothing :-(
On My Nightstand:

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Zoo--Graham Marks

Title: Zoo
Author: Graham Marks
Pages: 266 p.
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 1582349916

I don't usually go for the spy/action/boy books and I probably would not have read this if it hadn't been for one of my middle school boys choosing it for our book group. But once I started reading I couldn't stop. This is an intelligent, quick-paced, action-packed book that boys are sure to love. Although it's probably geared more for high school (the main character is 17), there's nothing preventing middle schoolers from reading it. There is a little lovey-dovey stuff, but nothing more than kissing, and it definitely takes a back seat to the action.

17 year old Cameron Stewart has always lived a privileged life. His mother has never been very affectionate and treats him more like an investment than her flesh and blood, but he's had a happy childhood. His father is not a millionaire, but pretty well-off and able to provide whatever Cam needs. Life is great until he gets kidnapped, manages to escape, but discovers that he can't trust anyone and must survive on his own until he can figure out what's going on.

I enjoyed this book and was able to finish it in just a couple of days (hey, I have a toddler). I'm looking forward to the middle school book group next month. I think the boys are going to really respond to it.

On My Nightstand: New Moon--Stephenie Meyer

Looking for Normal--Betty Monthei

Title: Looking for Normal
Author: Betty Monthei
Pages: 185 p.
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN: 0060725052

"Daddy killed Mama today, just like he told her he would."

With that haunting first line, Looking for Normal, tells the story of young Annie and her younger brother Ted after their father goes crazy and kills their mother and then himself. This is *not* an easy read. After dealing with the trauma of losing both of their parents, the kids have to deal with an abusive grandmother and a distant grandfather too much in denial to help them.

This was a very good book and made my middle school boys cry. We had a great discussion about the book itself, as well as whether or not they had ever discussed with their parents who would take them in the event of a tragedy. Although it's a difficult book to read and didn't lend itself to a "fun" discussion, it's an important book in today's violent world and would be good for a discussion group.

On My Nightstand:

Nailed--Patrick Jones

Title: Nailed
Author: Patrick Jones
Pages: 216 p.
Publisher: Walker
ISBN: 0802780776

I read this a while ago for the teen book group and just haven't had a chance to get a review up. Consequently the details are a little fuzzy. The core plot of the book is Brett's abuse at school by the rich jocks who think he's a freak. The subplot, but more important aspect of the story, is Brett's relationship with his father, who also thinks he's a freak and doesn't understand him at all. By the end of the story the abuse has reached its climax and is the catalyst for Brett and his father to find some common ground.

This book prompted a really good discussion, something that doesn't happen often in our teen book group, about high school and cliques and stereotypes. At our local high school the cliques aren't so clearly drawn--the cool kids aren't necessarily the jocks. And everybody makes fun of everybody. They all seem to bully each other. The girls didn't like the book as much as librarians have, but it certainly sparked a really good discussion.

On My Nightstand:

Thursday, October 05, 2006

King Dork--Frank Portman

Title: King Dork
Author: Frank Portman
Pages: 344 p.
Publisher: Delacorte Press
ISBN: 0385732910

I've read a lot about this book and most people seem to think that you have to either *love* it or *hate* it. I disagree. I didn't think it was the funniest thing I've ever read or the most interesting book in the world. I definitely had some problems with it. But it was entertaining and I enjoyed most of it.

Tom Henderson, aka Chi-Mo and King Dork and a bunch of other derogatory nicknames, is an introspective, witty, high school boy. He is tormented by bullies, both students and teachers, and has very few friends. His relationship with his best friend, Sam Hellerman, is based on the fact that their last names are in alphabetical order and thus they sat near each other in school. He and Sam are in a "band"--although all they have are band names (which change constantly) album names and song titles. They don't have actual instruments or rehearsals for much of the book. The band names are hilarious.

Most of the plot revolves around Tom finding his dead father's copy of Catcher in the Rye. From there he is embroiled in a mystery surrounding his father's death, a secret code and a funeral card. Somehow this mystery also ties in to Tom's current bullying teachers and miserable existance in high school.

I enjoyed most of the book. I thought Tom was funny. The conclusion was wrapped up too nicely--seemingly unrelated events fit together--but then Tom questions the conclusion and wonders if maybe there is none at all. It seemed to be a bit of a cop-out.

The major problem most people seem to have with the book is its portrayal of girls. While I do believe the girl social structure (with the Queen Bitch at top) is true, I do think the cavalier attitude the girls had toward oral sex was over the top. Granted, many people (especially young people) do not think of oral sex as sex, but these girls were just unbelievable with their willingness to perform this service.

Overall I was entertained and would recommend this book, but I would caution teens to seriously think about the girls' attitude toward oral sex.

On My Nightstand:

Friday, September 15, 2006

Twilight--Stephanie Meyer

Title: Twilight
Author: Stephanie Meyer
Pages: 498 p.
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co.
ISBN: 0316160172

I don't know why it took so long for me to read this book. I mean, for me to pick it up in the first place. Once I started, I zipped through it.

Bella moves to a rainy, dismal town to stay with her Dad when her mom marries a traveling baseball player. At first she hates the town, until she discovers Edward--a strange, alluring boy that she can't stay away from. Turns out Edward is a vampire, but he's a "good vampire" that doesn't drink human blood as much as he may crave it. Much like Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Edward drinks only animal blood and fights his desire for humans.

Bella and Edward fall in love, but being in love with a vampire has its obstacles.

When I say that I zipped through this book, I meant it. I loved it. I loved the unnatural forbidden relationship, much like Buffy and Angel, I loved Edward and his vampire family. The plot is interesting and thrilling and it's hard to put down the book. I can't wait to get my hands on New Moon--the sequel.

Reading: King Dork--Frank Portman
On My Nightstand: More

Across the Wall--Garth Nix

Title: Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories
Author: Garth Nix
Pages: 305 p.
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 0060747137

This is a collection of short stories that are either new--like Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case--or previously published--like most of the others. I only read the first one, the only Tale of the Abhorsen, Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case.

Those of you that remember the Abhorsen series, will remember Nicholas Sayre as Sam's friend. This story is told from his perspective. He's back in Ancelstierre but yearns to go back to the Old Kingdom and see Sam and Lirael. He's given his chance when a mysterious free magic creature escapes from Ancelstierre and goes on a murderous rampage, heading for the Old Kingdom. Only Nick knows what the creature is and attempts to warn Lirael.

I liked the story, I liked reading Nick's side of things, but the very end was way too short. I wanted more between Nick and Lirael. I understand that this was just a story, and it was Nick's story of the creature, not a Lirael-Nick story, and I guess it's a good thing that I was left wanting more. But I really really hope I get more someday...

Reading: King Dork--Frank Portman
On My Nightstand: more

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Just Listen--Sarah Dessen

Title: Just Listen
Author: Sarah Dessen
Pages: 371 p
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 0670061050

Annabel is a 17 year old girl with a lot of secrets. She doesn't see them as secrets, she just doesn't want to risk telling the truth and hurting someone's feelings. So she tells little white lies to make people feel better and supresses her own feelings. Until she meets Owen. Owen is brutally honest--because he has to be. If he's not honest he has anger problems and winds up punching people in the face. Being honest allows him to control his anger. They strike up a friendship and eventually a romance and help each other be better people.

I'm really not doing the plot any justice with that summary, but I'm somewhat tired and sick and groggy. I love Sarah Dessen, I always have. This one is no exception. It felt somewhat different from her previous stories-in a good way. I was dismayed at all the tiny editing problems--little words that were missing like "a" or "to"--but that's the editor's fault not really the author's. I devoured the book in 2 days and am ashamed to admit that I ignored my son during snack time so I could read it and wound up with crackers on the floor. But I just couldn't stop reading. Like the other Dessen books there's more than just a romance, there are family issues and friendship issues as well.

I'd recommend it to Dessen fans as well as junior and senior high girls. I think it might be a bit much for middle school kids.

On My Nightstand:

The Book of Night with Moon--Diane Duane

Title: The Book of Night with Moon
Author: Diane Duane
Pages: 390 p
Publisher: Warner Books
ISBN: 0446673021

This book is set in the same universe at Duane's Young Wizards series, but is about cat wizards instead of the human Nita and Kit. Nita and Kit do make a brief appearance, as well as the senior wizard Carl, but other than that it's all cat. It took me quite a while to get into the story. Cats are responsible for maintaining the transport gates at Penn and Grand Central Station that wizards use to make transits without having to use their own energy on transit spells. Something goes horrible wrong with one of the gates and the cats in charge have to go to the downside--the reality that our reality is based on--to see what the problem is. While there they run into even bigger problems. Once the story got going I was more interested in reading it and wound up finishing it quickly. I'm not much of a cat person, but I enjoyed reading their views on the inferior species--humans. I was surprised at how many references to cat balls there were, but they were funny so it was okay.

I don't think it's necessary to read this in order to appreciate the Young Wizards series. It was a good enough read once it got going, but not on par with the other books.

On My Nightstand:

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall in Love--Maryrose Wood

Title: Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall in Love
Author: Maryrose Wood
Pages: 243 p.
Publisher: Delacorte Press
ISBN: 0385732767

Felicia and her best friends Jess and Kat attend a new-age private school in NYC. They don't have traditional classes or homework and are instead supposed to work on special projects and motivate themselves. They call each other Kittens because of a chance encounter with a special kitten tarot card deck that brings them together as friends. Boys are naturally Dawgs.

Felicia is in love with one Dawg in particular but he doesn't seem interested in her. So she comes up with a crazy plan--a science experiment about love--in order to attract his attention.

I loved this book. It was funny, it was smart. I loved the plot. It was silly and captivating and an all-around great read.

Reading: The Book of Night With Moon--Diane Duane
On My Nightstand: Just Listen--Sarah Dessen

A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl--Tanya Lee Stone

Title: A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl
Author: Tanya Lee Stone
Pages: 223 p
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
ISBN: 0385747020

This is a very quick read--a novel in verse about 3 girls who all encounter the same "bad boy". One of the girls decides to warn everyone else by using the library book Forever by Judy Blume, since every teenage girl will read it at some point. She uses the last few blank pages to add her warning. Other girls who have also experienced the heartache associated with this player add their own opinions and comments. Anyone who has had her heart broken by a bad boy and has lived to tell the tale will be drawn to this book. Boys who want to know how NOT to act with girls would also benefit from reading it.

Reading: The Book of Night with Moon--Diane Duane
On My Nightstand: Just Listen--Sarah Dessen

Friday, June 30, 2006

Wizards at War--Diane Duane (contains spoilers)

Title: Wizards at War
Author: Diane Duane
Pages: 552 p.
Publisher: Harcourt
ISBN: 0152047727

I read the first book in this series, So You Want to be a Wizard, when I was around 10 years old. That would be TWENTY years ago.

And I still love it just as much as I did then.

Wizards at War is the eighth book in the series. Having read the first 7 is required to truly understand and appreciate the eternal conflict between the Lone Power and the wizards. In this book the wizards must deal with expanding dark matter called pullulus. The pullulus is causing the universe to expand too quickly, causing senior wizards to lose their power and their faith, and causing regular humans to lose all emotion but anger. This is a dangerous situation and it's up to the young wizards to sort it all out. While Nita and Kit search for a powerful weapon to help defeat the pullulus, Dairine and Roshaun discover the pullulus is just a distraction--a diversionary tactic used by the Lone Power to cover up an even more important mission. The young wizards join forces to battle the Lone Power and help usher a new benevolent Power into the world, but not without casualties.

In previous books Kit's dog Ponch began "making worlds" and exhibiting wizardly power himself. At the end of this book we know why. Each species is given a Choice--we learn that the Powers That Be offered the dogs more power and wisdom but only if they walk the new way alone and leave their human companions. The Lone Power offered them the world but only if they kill the people first. The dogs refused both offers. The Powers That Be understand their choice is made from loyalty and allow them to have some power but not all wizardry until they are faced with the Choice again. At the end of the book the dogs are faced with the Choice again and this time Ponch chooses the new way--in order to save Kit and his humans. Ponch becomes more than what he is, he becomes the dogs' version of the One, the Godlike Power that exists in every species. Ponch must leave Kit in order to do this but not without heartache and tears. There is a happy ending though and Kit discovers that Ponch exists in ALL dogs now and is not truly gone.

I sped through this book in just a few days. Fans of the series will not be disappointed. Duane has done a wonderful job of universe-building and it's easy to forget that this is fantasy and not science fiction. I look forward to reading the next one and hope there is a next one. This book had a finale feeling to it, but there's enough loose ends to warrant another story. And fans certainly want one.
Reading: Dunno yet.
On My Nightstand:

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Inexcusable--Chris Lynch

Title: Inexcusable
Author: Chris Lynch
Pages: 165 p.
Publisher: Atheneum Books
ISBN: 0689847890

Keir Sarafian is a good guy. He's a football player, a soccer player, and liked by all. He has a great relationship with his father and his two older sisters who have gone away to college.

Or so he thinks.

Keir is a confused, messed-up kid, living in a dream world. His father is an alcoholic, and while not abusive or mean, he's not the best influence for Keir. Keir begins to follow in his father's footsteps abusing alcohol and other drugs. He has some violent tendencies--he tackled an opposing football player so hard the kid couldn't get up--earning him the nickname "Killer." He cannot accept responsibility for anything and when the "investigation" into the tackle determines that Keir did nothing "wrong" he refuses to acknowledge otherwise. He believes he is a good guy, and good guys don't do things like that.

They also don't rape their friends.

The story opens with Keir and his friend Gigi arguing over what Keir did to her. He claims he didn't do anything because he is a good guy and good guys know that "no means no." We see flashbacks of the events leading up to the fateful night between Keir and Gigi. And Keir eventually learns that the way things look in his head are not the way things really are.

The story is gripping, the pace keeps the reader interested, and I had a hard time putting this down. But I was slightly disappointed. All along I kept expecting something more to happen to show the truth and when the truth was finally revealed (to Keir), I thought there should have been more discussion. I *think* that his father is an alcoholic, but is he really? I was left with a lot of questions about Keir's family--why did he think they were perfect when they clearly weren't? Why did his sisters go so far away? And did his nickname "Killer" mean that he killed the other boy?? I really liked this book, I liked the way it was written, I liked the story. It left me with a lot of questions, but maybe that's a good thing? Maybe it's good that I didn't get a nice neat wrapped-up movie-ending with a clear denoument. Maybe it's good to be left with questions.

Added 6/30/06
I think I know why I felt "disappointed". I've been searching for some excuse, some justification, some reason that Keir could have done this. If there was a scene with his father abusing him that would somehow explain how he could do something like this. But it wouldn't really--Lynch got it right--this is inexcusable. I think if I'm disappointed in anything it's in humanity, and not the book.
On My Nightstand: Wizards at War--Diane Duane

Monday, June 19, 2006

Dough Boy--Peter Marino

Title: Dough Boy
Author: Peter Marino
Pages: 221 p
Publisher: Holiday House
ISBN: 0823418731

Tristan is an overweight teenage son of divorced parents. He's happy with his parents' divorce, they're much happier separate than together; while he's not exactly happy with his weight, he's not bothered by it. He has a good relationship with his parents and their new partners. He gets along very well with his mother's live-in boyfriend (Frank), who is also overweight, and shares the love of ice cream sundaes with him. Everything is fine in Tristan's life, until Frank's daughter comes to visit and then live with them. Kelly is not only thin and beautiful, she's a health freak and completely judgemental about Frank and Tristan's weight. It's not enough for her to express concern over their size, she has to make them feel bad about it. Tristan weakens under her constant abuse and bullying until he finally explodes.

Dough Boy starts off somewhat slow. With the big type and the plot I wasn't sure if this was really a teenage novel. But I stuck with it, and it was worth it. Tristan is a sympathetic character. He's not perfect--he lets his "friends" take advantage of him and he ignores his true friends in the process. Kelly may be thin and tough, but she's vulnerable too. The main characters are mostly 3-dimensional and learn something by the end of the book. There's an incident of teen sex and references to teenage male genitalia, but nothing is gratuitious and everything is handled well.
Reading: ?
On My Nightstand: More, more, more.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Avalon High--Meg Cabot

Title: Avalon High
Author: Meg Cabot
Pages: 288
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2006
ISBN: 0060755865

Ellie starts her junior year at a new high school in a new town miles away from her friends and old school. Her parents are both professors--medieval scholars--and on sabattical to research their particular topics. Ellie's mother is an expert on the Tennyson poem the Lady of Shalott (who Ellie is named after--Lady Elaine who committed suicide after Lancelot spurned her for Queen Guinevere). Her father is studying an old sword. This brings Ellie to Annapolis and Avalon High. Although not excited to start a new school, Ellie changes her mind when she runs into Will, a boy she feels she has met before but just can't place. Ellie is instantly attracted to Will, but unfortunately he's dating the most popular girl in school, cheerleader Jennifer. Ellie's new friends try to hook her up with Will's best friend Lance but she definitely prefers Will, and Lance is smitten with Jennifer. Will's evil step-brother Marco turns out to be his half-brother and exposes Lance and Jennifer's secret relationship and then tries to kill Will.

Each of the characters is based on legend--A. Will Wagner is King Arthur, Jennifer is Guinevere, and Lance is obviously Lancelot. Marco is Modred and there's a teacher Mr. Morton who is clearly Merlin, although not as powerful or wise. Ellie's role seems obvious in the beginning but turns out to be a surprise.

I love Arthurian legend and I loved this twist on the once and future king. Cabot has written a realistic fiction romance novel with elements of fantasy and suspense. Knowledge of Arthurian legend enhances the reading, but is not required. Girls will definitely be drawn to this story, but the romance is not so overwhelming so it turns off boys. Although the characters are in high school, there's nothing preventing middle schoolers from enjoying the story. The romance never progresses past the kissing level.
Reading: Doughboy--Pete Marino
On My Nightstand: Lots more

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Frog Princess--E.D. Baker

Emma is a princess escaping a boring prince-suitor by running to the swamp when she stumbles upon a talking frog. Claiming he is an enchanted prince who needs a kiss to return to his human state, the frog asks Emma to help him. Reluctant at first, Emma complies and instead of turning the frog into a prince, she turns into a frog. The two frogs embark on an adventure to return to their normal human selves.

The prince-frog needing a kiss from a princess is a classic story. The twist of Emma turning into a frog is a nice touch, but I was somewhat disappointed with this story. I think it's more of a juvenile or tween book than it is a teen book. I may have it classified incorrectly... there wasn't anything "wrong" with it, the writing was okay, it just felt like a teen book would have been a little deeper.

I think tween girls will love this book. It's a fairy tale with a fun twist. It's easy to read and has the appropriate amount of adventure, romance and magic.
Reading: Nothing yet
On My Nightstand: Stress Free For Good-Fred Luskin; In Control: No More Snapping at Your Family, Sulking at Work, Steaming in the Grocery Line, Seething at Meetings, Stuffing Your Frustration.--Redford Williams

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sir Thursday (The Keys to the Kingdom)--Garth Nix

I think I am officially in love with Garth Nix.

Those of you who are unfamiliar with the Keys to the Kingdom series need to start with Mister Monday, then go on to Grim Tuesday, and finally Drowned Wednesday. This is not a series you can pick up in the middle and fully appreciate.

Arthur's dealing with the longest week of his life. Although it's just Thursday to his family, months and months have passed by for him because of his travels to the House and it's alternate time scheme. Thinking that he can go home after dealing with Drowned Wednesday and getting the 3rd Key and the 3rd part of the Will, Arthur is dismayed to discover that a spirit-eater is impersonating him on Earth. He cannot go back home until he destroys the spirit-eater and he can't do that at all because he's been drafted into the Army of the Glorious Architect. While he's at boot camp his friend Leaf returns to Earth and battles the spirit-eater. Arthur survives boot camp, but spends most of it not knowing who he is after he's been cleaned between the ears. It's not until Arthur is in battle that he begins to remember himself and his important mission.

Arthur must battle Sir Thursday at the same time he battles the curious New Nithlings led by the Piper. He must win the 4th key and free the 4th part of the Will while trying to avoid using it and turning more into a Denizen than he wants to be. He wrestles with the knowledge that saving the people of the House and the people of his world will require sacrificing a little bit of his humanity each time he uses his power.

Although it takes a while for the action to really begin, I loved this book. Leaf's battle against the spirit-eater is told in alternating chapters with Arthur's story. There's more religious allegory here too--Mister Monday is said to have failed because of his sloth (laziness), Grim Tuesday because of his avarice (greed), and I think it's clear Drowned Wednesday's sin was gluttony (she turned into a whale!). Although I enjoy seeing the underlying religious story, it's not necessary to understand or appreciate the series. Kids who don't pick up on it won't be missing out and people who don't want to see it won't be offended.

The book is a major cliff-hanger and I hope we see Lady Friday soon!

Reading: Dunno
On My Nightstand:

Monday, April 10, 2006

How Angel Peterson Got His Name--Gary Paulsen

What a great book for middle school boys!

The author narrates this collection of loosely related memories of his days as a 13 year old boy. He and his friends make their own entertainment before the days of TV and video games and the Internet. They ride bikes and make their own skateboards and perform their own daredevil stunts.

Paulsen tells the story like he's talking directly to the reader around a campfire at night "Remember when Angel tried to break the speed-ski record ...." It's funny and exciting and short. Middle school boys will eat this right up. I don't know how girls will relate... I enjoyed it but while I was reading it all I could think about was what I wasn't going to let my son do when he gets to be 13.

Reading: Sir Thursday--Garth Nix
On My Nightstand:

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Girl, Nearly 16 Absolute Torture--Sue Limb

I don't like romance novels. I hate them. But I love romance IN novels. This is the sequel to the last book I read, Girl, 15, Charming But Insane. It's a funny story, with a lot of romance, but the romance is not the story. In the last book Jess decided she was not truly in love with the boy she was obsessed with (Ben) and she realized her true feelings for her best mate, Fred. This book picks up a few months later after Fred and Jess have become an item. Thinking she's going to have the best summer in the world now that she has a boyfriend, Jess can't wait for it to begin. And then she gets the news that her mum has scheduled a 2-3 week road trip to go see her Dad and to see boring literary historical landmarks along the way. Jess is devastated. How will she survive without Fred? But more importantly, how will Fred resist the temptations of the evil beautiful women playing tennis sexily? Especially her best friend, the blond perfect Flora.

Jess and Fred are hysterical together. Instead of the usual sappy romance, they're funny. They insult each other but it's in a loving way. Jess is a great character and I loved her overreactions to everything (she constantly feared Fred would be cheating on her and blew everything out of proportion whenver any girl talked to him). Although they kept in pretty close contact because of text messaging on their cell phones, Jess still freaked out and there was still miscommunication and drama. You'd think when someone is in constant contact there would be no misunderstandings , but with teens there are ALWAYS misunderstandings.

I loved this book. I'd like to hear more stories about Jess!

On My Nightstand: How Angel Peterson Got His Name--Gary Paulsen, Sir Thursday--Garth Nix

Monday, March 13, 2006

Girl, 15, Charming But Insane--Sue Limb

Jessica Jordan is a 15 year old British girl with low self-esteem, flaky friends, and boy problems. Sound familiar? While similiar to Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicholson series (Angus, Thongs & Full-Frontal Snogging), Jess is a much much nicer character than Georgia. She isn't quite so self-asborbed, and she isn't mean. She thinks her arse is too big and her boobs too small (who doesn't?) and she's confused about boys-- there's the stud she's obsessed with and then her best mate who has always been there for her but is he really just a friend? Jess is a likeable character and this is an enjoyable story. The best part is Jess's mom is a librarian so there are funny lines about librarians. Naturally, being a librarian I thought this was hilarious. This by far is the funniest:

"You might think that being a librarian would be a quiet, cushy job, but sometimes it seemed that the library was really a nightmarish extension of the mean streets and that librarians were just cops and paramedics disguised in tweedy cardigans and long dangly parrot earrings from the charity shop."

This is a good story, it's funny and Jess is a good character. There is a hysterical bit about Jess using sandwich bags full of minestrone to um, enhance, a certain area of her body with disastrous results. It's definitely a girl's book, I don't see many boys being tempted to read it. Although the word "sex" appears frequently, the act itself never appears. A good book for both middle school and high school girls, it'll leave you excited to read the sequel.

On My Nightstand: Girl, Nearly 16 Absolute Torture--Sue Limb

Friday, March 10, 2006

Stormbreaker--Anthony Horowitz

I am not a 6th grade boy. And I liked this book. My middle school book group (made up of 6th grade boys. ALL boys. ALL 6th grade. Feel my pain. ;-) ) chose this book because they wanted to read a boy book that wasn't fantasy. And because the ringleader had already read it.

I think I'm probably the last person to have read this, so I'll skip the summary. Everyone knows all about the Alex Rider books now. He's a teen James Bond, a reluctant spy-hero, fighting the evil forces that killed his spy-Uncle. It's very easy to read--the language and plot are perfect for those reluctant reader boys. It's action-packed and reads like a movie (no surprise a movie will be made). Alex is a likeable boy, he's capable of taking care of himself, but makes mistakes along the way. He's not cocky or arrogant (at least not in this first book, I can't speak for the rest of the series). It's a very quick read, particularly because it's so action-packed it's hard to put down. You want to keep reading to see if Alex can get out of the mess he's in.

Overall thumbs-up; PERFECT for boys, especially middle school.

Reading: Girl , 15, Charming But Insane--Sue Limb
On My Nightstand: waiting for Sir Thursday!!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Skybreaker--Kenneth Oppel

I loved this book. Loved. Devoured. Could not stop reading even though I was so tired and knew I would be up early the next morning.

Matt Cruse and Kate De Vries from Airborn have another sky adventure. Now a student at the Air Academy, Matt is struggling with his studies. Thinking that he would do well because of his natural skill, he is surprised by his difficulty with the numbers and physics and theory behind air travel. Kate offers him a chance to salvage a "ghost ship" and make his fortune. He, Kate and a young gypsy girl catch a ride with a new ship--a skybreaker--capable of flying at the dangerously high altitudes the ghost ship travels (in skyberia). Not only do they have to deal with airborn creatures, they also have to contend with pirates after the same loot.

I loved the story, I loved the relationship with Kate and Matt and the jealousy that arises when Matt befriends the gypsy girl and Kate befriends the young captain of the skybreaker. The adventure was good, the writing was good. There was a typo, but they did a much better job proofreading this one than the last one! Although it can be read as a stand-alone, it's so much better if you've read the first one and know the history. The story wraps up nicely but it would be great to see other adventures in later books.

On My Nightstand: Stormbreaker--Horowitz, others.

Girls Dinner Club--Jessie Elliot

Three girls get together and make dinner. They each have their own problems and discover that no one is perfect and how much friendship can help.

I hate giving bad reviews... and this isn't really a "bad" book but I didn't find it very realistic. I thought the teens had far too much freedom. One of the characters lived by herself because her parents both had jobs overseas. I just don't see that happening. I also don't see teen girls getting together and making dinner that involves anything other than a microwave and a frozen dinner in a box. The dialogue didn't ring true either. I found myself doubting that teens would talk this way.

It's very possible that I'm just not in the right frame of mind for "fluffy" books and that's why I didn't really like this one or want to finish Lucky T. I can say that I devoured Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel and that is not a fluffy book...
On My Nightstand:

Lucky T--Kate Brian

I started this book and haven't finished it. It's not bad, it just wasn't enough to keep me riveted when I had a million other things to do. Carrie's mom sends her favorite lucky t-shirt to charity in a foreign country and Carrie's luck ends. Her boyfriend breaks up with her, she fights with her best friend, and decides she needs to do anything to get that t-shirt back.

Perhaps someday I'll finish and find out if she gets her t-shirt back.
On My Nightstand:

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Fade to Black--Alex Flinn

Alex Crusan is an HIV+ student driving to Dunkin' Donuts one morning when his windshield is hit with a baseball bat, breaking the window and causing flying glass to cut him. Crawling on the floor of his car he manages to hit the gas and drive away from the assailant.

Clinton Cole is an intolerant student who wants nothing more than to see Alex Crusan leave his school. He is intolerant because he is afraid. He's scared that he or his family will get HIV just by breathing the same air as Crusan. He's so scared he's willing to do whatever it takes to send Crusan a message.

Daria Bickell claims she sees Cole smash Crusan's window. But did the Down Syndrome girl really see what she says she saw?

Told in these three alternating viewpoints, Fade to Black is an excellent example of how people's perceptions of the truth are different. On the surface Clinton Cole is an intolerant bigot. But is he really capable of violence? He's just a scared kid who's misguided and needs some help. Daria Bickell just wants to help, to be a hero, but how far is she willing to go to do that?

I liked the story. Once again Alex Flinn has written an engaging interesting book. It's good for everyone--boys, girls, high schoolers, middle schoolers.

Reading: I'll get to it.
On My Nightstand: Way too many.

Heavy Metal and You--Christopher Krovatin

Yes. I know. I have no excuse. Well, other than holidays with a toddler. I started this book ages ago and then time got away from me. But then I finished it in a big burst of reading on Monday. Life just gets in the way.

Sam and Melissa are complete opposites. Sam is a metalhead--a serious metalhead who knows metal history. Melissa is a preppie girl. They fall for each other, but the relationship is doomed. Melissa tries to change Sam too much, while at the same time being intrigued by his bad boy image. She tries to escape her preppie lifestyle by dating Sam, but it falls apart.

I loved the heavy metal music references (aside: I love metal. I bought my toddler the thunderlords cd--heavy metal music for kids.) I loved how Sam brought intelligence to the scene. Even to the seemingly illogical practice of moshing...

This is a solid first novel. It's a good romance book for boys--it's not heavy on the romance, but the relationship is the major plot in the story. Juggling a new girlfriend who seems perfect and out of your league with your best friends who are at odds with her, is a difficult thing to do. Krovatin portrays this nicely. There's enough metal, drugs and swearing to interest boys, and enough of the relationship to interest girls. I'd keep it for the high school kids because there is strong (realistic) language, but also because I think middle schoolers just won't really get it.
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