Mary lives in a village cut off from the rest of the world by a fence surrounded by the Unconsecrated filled forest. The sounds of their4.75 stars ;)
Mary lives in a village cut off from the rest of the world by a fence surrounded by the Unconsecrated filled forest. The sounds of their hands scraping and their teeth gnashing is so familiar, that although it serves as a constant reminder of their isolation and uncertain future, it fades into the background of the townspeople’s existence as they go about the business of simply surviving.
But Mary is not happy with the status quo. She’s heard her mother’s stories about the ocean, about a happy time before the zombie apocalypse. She yearns for that which is forbidden by the ruling Sisterhood – for knowledge, for true love, for freedom. But is she willing to risk everything for a chance at a different kind of life beyond the forest of hands and teeth?
This novel is bleak and oppressively claustrophobic, but if you can get past that, you are in for a heartbreakingly beautiful story about daring to dream no matter what. About following your heart. About making every moment count.
There is a lot I’d love to discuss in more detail, but I don’t want to spoil it. For those of you looking for scenes of bone crushing zombie action, you will definitely not be disappointed (although you will have to be patient for more than 100 pages). For those of you wary about reading a “zombie” book, don’t be scared. The narrative might not be sugarcoated, but it’s far from being “horror” in the scary movie sense.
Mary’s story will resonate with fans of impossible romances set against perilous backdrops (think The Hunger Games or even, as Jen Robinson suggests in her review, Twilight). This is one that will stay with me, and the big tease at the end has me chomping at the bit like a super zombie to read the follow-up....more
Edna’s mother has cancer and the only good thing about that is people are willing to let her get away with pretty much anything. If she fails a test,Edna’s mother has cancer and the only good thing about that is people are willing to let her get away with pretty much anything. If she fails a test, is late, or misses tennis practice, everyone understands. What they wouldn’t understand is her illicit romance with her art teacher, the one thing that makes her feel happy lately. Not that she’s going to tell anyone – especially not her therapist who wants to convince her to visit her mother in the hospital. But she just can’t and no one is going to make her...
I was blown away by this book, pure and simple. Debut Author Lisa Levchuk manages to capture perfectly the feeling of being a teen that has a mother with cancer (and I should know). Edna’s voice is so raw and honest while still managing to be witty and endearing. You want to give her a hug at the same time you want to shake her and make her come to her senses.
The narrative tension is two-fold: Will she overcome her fear and visit her mother and will she and her teacher get caught? The novel is rich, deep, and ripe for discussion – from the characters relationships with one another (not just Edna’s relationship with her teacher but also with her distant father), to the pressures of small town life and the importance of music and art. ...more
Celeste Harris loves to eat chocolate cookies. But she hates being called a cow by teen mean queen Lively, that she looks like a watermelon in the PeaCeleste Harris loves to eat chocolate cookies. But she hates being called a cow by teen mean queen Lively, that she looks like a watermelon in the Peach Monstrosity of a bridesmaid’s dress she has to wear for her cousin’s wedding, and that her Aunt signed her up to model in the Miss Husky Peach pageant for plus-sized girls. Is it time to "just say no" to junk food?
Let me say right off the bat that I loved Celeste. She completely charmed me with her matter-of-fact voice and her sweet personality. She’s an underdog, but not a complete social outcast and her road to self acceptance is filled with the kind of middle school drama that’s completely relatable.
I was also impressed by the way debut author Erin Dionne handled the sensitive issue of weight loss. Celeste knows that she’s chubby and she is hurt by her classmates’ taunting, but dieting is not really on her radar. A diet ad with a bikini clad woman gives her the idea to try to lose the Husky Peach modeling gig by losing weight so they won’t want her anymore. The desire to eat healthier starts with her and at her friend’s gentle urging, she also becomes more physically active. It all comes off as totally natural and that is quite a feat.
There are many laugh-out-loud scenes – the diet drink fiasco being a particular favorite of mine – and I just had so much fun reading this.
I love the premise here and the whole twist on the zombie idea, that there is a secret society whose purpose it is to take messages from the dead whoI love the premise here and the whole twist on the zombie idea, that there is a secret society whose purpose it is to take messages from the dead who are unsettled enough about some aspect of their deaths to crawl out their graves (one pervy guy just wanted to see a girl naked before he went to his eternal slumber). Author Stacey Jay gets points for creating a pretty plausible paranormal/real world co-existence.
If you asked me what genre this was, I wouldn’t really know what to say. The inclusion of zombies makes it paranormal, but it is not scary. Megan goes on dates with “hot” guys, but it’s not romantic. No one knows who the black magic villain is, but it’s not mysterious (and I figured out one of the “baddies” early on even though this person’s motive is out of left field and their m.o. highly dubious). There is a lot of kicking zombie butt, but I wouldn’t classify it as action. And both Megan and the story are way too shallow for it to be a drama. ...more
Sixth grader Molly Paige and her best friend Tanna find an antique machine in Molly’s basement that has the power to tell them who they’ll marry. NewsSixth grader Molly Paige and her best friend Tanna find an antique machine in Molly’s basement that has the power to tell them who they’ll marry. News spreads and all the kids at school now want to know “Who” too. Meanwhile, Molly tries to find a way to keep her widower father from marrying the horrifying woman known as “The Claw” even though the “Who-meter” says their marriage is a done deal. Is the future decided or can it be influenced?
This concept had me super excited thinking of all the possibilities. How would your dating life change if knew the name of the person you were destined to marry? Would it help you avoid heartbreak or would you miss out on some great relationships while waiting for “the one” to show up? Would the absence of mystery suck all the roller coaster fun out of dating?
Once I started reading though, I pretty quickly realized that this novel was not set up to explore such questions.
Instead of jumping right into the action of the main plot, the book begins with a bunch of long winded set-up scenes that feature elementary school kids I do not care about doing disgusting things like chewing with their mouths open. The “who meter”, the reason I’m reading this, does not show up until page 50. Seriously?!
But then it does get kind of fun. Tanna finds out she’s going to marry some rich British guy and uses UK slang the rest of the book. Molly plots “The Claw’s” downfall and is grossed out when she finds out she’s destined to marry a younger man. One classmate finds out she’ll marry 7 times. Another not at all. Only Molly’s basketball tutor Julie refuses to use the machine, saying:
“I guess it feels kind of like reading the last page of a mystery before you’ve even started.” (page 133)
Wise words Julie. I only wish you and your pals hadn’t been confined to a 3 month time period in a middle grade novel. That this wasn’t YA or even adult fiction is a real missed opportunity in my eyes. ...more
I have mixed feelings about this novel. I like that the subject of purity rings (and faith in general) is dealt with earnestly and in a balanced way tI have mixed feelings about this novel. I like that the subject of purity rings (and faith in general) is dealt with earnestly and in a balanced way that I can see resonating with many teens. It’s something that has the potential to generate a healthy discussion about values, being true to yourself, and respecting your body. But as provocative as it is sometimes (such as a scene where Tabitha discovers that Jesus never specifically forbids premarital sex - or how about that cover?), it can also be pretty bland.
Maybe part of my indifference to the “drama” of the plot is due to the fact that I’m married and the days of purity rings are far behind me. Had I read it at 17 it would have been more relevant. Church youth group was a big part of my high school social life, so the ”True Love Waits” campaign is nothing new to me. In fact, one year, everyone was "strongly encouraged" to fill out purity pledges and lay them at the altar during the church service. We all did. Not necessarily because everyone really meant it. It was just that no one dared to disappoint parents and be branded a whore by judgmental old ladies.
It was this kind of “positive” peer pressure that permeated PURE. The five friends all have different motivations for wearing the rings. Morgan seems to be the most convicted that it is God’s will for her life, but she also enjoys the attention it brings her. Naeomi states at one point that she wears it mainly as a promise to herself, not so much for God’s sake. Tabitha got one because Morgan got one. And they all found it easy to pledge chastity before boys were in the picture.
Since the book is written in first person from Tabitha’s POV, we see just how conflicted she is about the Cara/sex situation. While the other girls are quick to judge and dump Cara, Tabitha wants to be a true friend. It’s noble, and even believable. But while reading, Tabitha’s perfection started to irk me a bit. She’s sensible and kind through it all, and even her small slip-ups are quickly forgiven because she deals with them so well. I would have expected a book about “betrayals, confessions and revenge” to be a bit … messier. ...more
Yann, a gypsy orphan raised by a dwarf in a magic show, meets convent raised Sido, the daughter of a ridiculously self indulgent marquis, near Paris oYann, a gypsy orphan raised by a dwarf in a magic show, meets convent raised Sido, the daughter of a ridiculously self indulgent marquis, near Paris on the cusp of the French Revolution. His love for her is as instant as his hate of their common enemy – the sinister Count Kalliovski. Can Yann find a way to save Sido from the count, her hateful father, and the upheaval of the revolution and subsequent Jacobin reign of terror?
Ever since doing a term paper on Charlotte Corday (the assassin of Marat, a key revolutionary figure and leader of the reign of terror), I have been fascinated with the French revolution and its aftermath. This novel is a successful historical thriller with elements of the supernatural woven in. Each of our three main characters is shrouded in mystery that is slowly revealed during the course of the narrative (though a few details are left open – perhaps saved for a possible sequel).
Some reviewers thought Sido was too passive as a character, but I thought she served the historically accurate storyline. Yann was well rounded enough to distract from Sido’s deficits, and I’m sure Sido would bloom once given the chance to live outside the extreme confines of her upbringing.
This is one I gulped down in one sitting – maybe you will too. ...more
Ida Mae loves to fly and dreams of being a licensed pilot. But she has two big obstacles living in the American south in the 1940’s – she’s a woman anIda Mae loves to fly and dreams of being a licensed pilot. But she has two big obstacles living in the American south in the 1940’s – she’s a woman and she’s black. When the US enters World War II and Ida Mae reads about the Women Airforce Service Pilots program, she decides to apply. Because she knows she has no chance to be admitted into the program as a black, she decides to try to pass as white (which she can thanks to her light skin), even though her family is against it.
This is a solid and inspiring novel about following your dreams no matter the risks (and what rules you have to break). Ida Mae doesn’t want to hurt her family by passing as white, and to allay her mother’s fears that she is turning her back on her heritage she says:
“I wasn’t hiding anything when I went into that room and face-to-face with an actual woman Army Air Forces pilot. And do you know what she saw? Not a negro woman, not a white woman, not a high yellow. But a pilot, Mama. A good pilot they need. Don’t you see? This is what daddy used to fly for. The chance to be everything other than the color of his skin.”
The race element is a theme which adds tension throughout, as once Ida Mae is accepted, she lives in fear of being found out. But we also learn a lot about what women went through to prove themselves as pilots and get to know the kinds of women who would take such a challenge on. It reminded me in tone and story a bit of “A League of their Own”, the movie about women who were allowed to play professional baseball while all the men were off to war, but who were unfortunately never going to be taken seriously outside wartime. It educates while it entertains, which is something I always look for in a historical novel. ...more
Lia is dying to be thin – literally. She’s already been in treatment clinics for anorexia twice, but it hasn’t helped much. She still counts caloriesLia is dying to be thin – literally. She’s already been in treatment clinics for anorexia twice, but it hasn’t helped much. She still counts calories obsessively and cuts open her body “to let the fat drip out”. When her former best friend dies alone in a hotel room after calling Lia 33 times, Lia’s demons within begin to torment her even more. And Lia has to decide: does she want to win the thin competition at any cost – even if it means her own death?
I have to admit that if I had first read a summary of this, I would not have read it. I’ve never been a fan of books about eating disorders, never obsessively weighed myself or counted calories, never understood the compulsion to do so. But I was drawn in by the pretty cover and the pretty title, and by the time I realized what I was reading, the pretty (and at times brutal) prose had already closed its tentacles around me and forced me to swallow the novel (278) whole.
Celebrated Author Laurie Halse Anderson (whose breakthrough novel Speak came out 10 years ago) excels at exploring and deconstructing the minds and motivations of troubled teens and gives the narrative an undeniable immediacy and urgency. Lia’s relationships with everyone around her – mother, father, stepmother, sister, therapist, guy she meets at hotel where Cassie died – take the back burner to her inner drama. Their appeals to her to eat, to save herself, fall on ears that can only hear those taunting inner voices that tell her that anything above 0 pounds is too fat. It’s not an easy novel, but it is one that demands to be read....more
Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty ended up being one of my favorite novels of last year, so it would be an understatement to say I was excited aboutConfessions of a Triple Shot Betty ended up being one of my favorite novels of last year, so it would be an understatement to say I was excited about reading this sequel and exploring how man-hating, feisty Geena would fare in her first romantic relationship.
In this second Betty adventure, the action revolves around Amber’s crush on the hot new English sub, the Jack Kerouac loving Mr. Sands. In a plot reminiscent of Cyrano de Bergerac, Amber enlists the decidedly more book smart Geena in her campaign to win over Mr. Sands, getting her help in making over her MySpace page and sending him literate, witty messages. Meanwhile, Geena has problems of her own: Sophie, a super-sophisticated girl from boyfriend Ben’s past moves back to Sonoma and makes it clear she wants to steal him away from her. The third Betty, Hero, is still presumably in love with Claudio, but both are largely MIA here (sadly).
It’s definitely written with the assumption that the readers have read the first book. Since it’s been 7 months since I read it though, I’ll admit, I was a little hazy on the details. It bothered me that the character of PJ was mentioned multiple times without explanation of who he was, and I racked my brain trying to remember (without success). It was also probably due to this time lapse that I struggled through the first 50 pages or so until Mr. Sands and the main plotline was introduced. I loved this portion of the novel: Author Gehrman really excels at writing humor and literary criticism. Her assessments of Kerouac’s On the Road (through Geena) mirror my own:
“I wanted to be totally into it, but the truth is, I had to make myself keep reading. I kept looking for the radiant, electrifying prose Mr. Sands always goes on about, but to me it just felt like one, queasy car ride with no particular destination.” (p 61)
And then there’s the Geena/Ben/Sophie plotline. What really I liked about this was the authentic feeling of awkwardness between Geena and Ben – both in terms of how far they should go physically and the spats they had due to Geena’s fear of not being a good girlfriend and her general tendency towards avoidance. What I didn’t like so much was the way Geena let Sophie bully her. Where was feisty Geena from the first book who never let anyone get in her way? To me, it just seemed too much out of character.
Overall, this makes a very nice companion novel to the Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty. Just make sure you read that one first. ...more
After the death of her mother, Katie takes a summer gardening job at the estate of town recluse Miss Martine who hasn’t been seen outside since she waAfter the death of her mother, Katie takes a summer gardening job at the estate of town recluse Miss Martine who hasn’t been seen outside since she was 16. Katie herself is burdened with grief, but she has to wonder what kind of tragedy would make you voluntarily disappear from life. With the help of two brothers and a glamorous librarian, Katie begins to decode the mystery and gain the strength to go on.
I admit, ever since the death of my own mother when I was 19, I tend to shy away from books where the mother is recently deceased or dying. I’m just always afraid they’ll be too depressing, too sad to handle. But Beth has done a beautiful thing here – she takes us to the truth of what it’s like to deal with loss (the too-big house that feels empty, the withdrawing from friends, the keeping busy to dull the pain) and then lets her characters (and her readers) find comfort and a renewed sense of purpose.
The story elements, the well-drawn characters (Katie’s father, chic Ms. McDermott, and estate caretaker Old Olson were favorites), and spare, lyrical writing all contribute to making this a genuinely affecting reading experience. In fact, as far as books about grief go, I’d rate it up there with Kate DiCamillo’s THE TIGER RISING. ...more