Cover Impressions: Not quite sure on this one. It certainly didn't attract me upon the r...moreThis and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: Not quite sure on this one. It certainly didn't attract me upon the release. I only put this one on my list after reading several rave reviews. I like the purple background of the city, but the image in front doesn't quite seem to fit with it.
The Gist: On the heels of an incident involving a wealthy playboy and a little too much honesty, Evie O'Neill has been sent to New York to live with her uncle and aid him in the running of his museum. When a murderer starts depositing bodies around the city bearing mysterious markings, The Museum of Creepy Crawlies is thrust into the limelight and Evie embarks on a dangerous investigation that will bring her further into the occult, and into danger, than she ever thought possible.
Review: The Diviners is set in the 1920s. The setting plays such a strong role that it begins to behave as another character - a character that hogs spotlight and spouts and endless stream of dialogue. In the beginning, it is a charming and useful means of orientation. However, as the novel continues, and the slang and explanations or 20s customs begin slow the plot, it becomes incredibly tedious. As I got further and further into the book (and begin to note the sheer girth of the novel) I began to question whether 90% of it was necessary.
In addition to the wordiness of the author there was an issue with the size of the cast. Evie is a fun character, as were her friends, Mabel and Theta. I think I would have much preferred if the novel has simply followed them through this mystery. Instead, however, it jumps through countless characters and scenes in what soon becomes a dizzying game of "where the heck are we now?" I kept waiting for the characters to find one another and form new superhero group who takes on demons and ghosts but SPOILER ALERT they never do!
The mystery was solid and the deaths were scary to read. These scenes were among the most enjoyable for me (at least in a cringeworthy way). I was a little disappointed when the big baddie didn't turn out to have manifested or possessed a real person, but I could easily have gotten over that if there has been a few more answered questions. The Diviners ends, the bad guy is gone (ish), but there are many plot lines left hanging. I am as yet unsure whether or not I will return for the next in this series.
Age: 15 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing, Sex Violence: Gunplay, Murder, Dismemberment Inappropriate Language: Whore, Bitch Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking, Marijuana Use Other Issues: Abortion, Suicide, Spousal Abuse(less)
Cover Impressions: Meh. Not something that would ever grab my attention except for the n...moreThis and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: Meh. Not something that would ever grab my attention except for the name John Green.
The Gist: During his first day at Culver Creek Boarding School Miles "Pudge" Halter meets the strange in enigmatic Alaska Young and nothing will ever be the same.
Review: Looking for Alaska is split into Before and After some mysterious event. It is difficult to discuss this, and difficult to write a review without giving away the big event - so I will try to discuss other factors.
I had some issues with this novel. I loved The Fault In Our Stars and was looking for the same type of connection with the characters. However, I didn't find it here. I found the characters to be generally unlikeable. They were not particularly friendly or caring. They drank a lot, smoked a lot and swore a lot. They didn't really seem to DO anything. The teen angst dial was a little too high and I found it difficult to feel anything for the characters or their situation.
This is not the novel for a reader who wishes for a great deal of action - there is very little. What you will get is page upon page of teenagers waxing philosophically and asking big questions about life. I will admit, I kept waiting for the big reveal - for some piece of evidence that would answer one of the main questions that the plot poses, but I guess that is much of the point. There are never adequate answers in these types of situations and the living must simply attempt to go on living.
Perhaps as a teenager, this would have more resonance. However, as a jaded 30 year old teacher - it falls flat.
A note on content: this is another book that I find frustrating in that the language/sexual content prevents me from recommending to my students.
Age: 16 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing, Petting, Talk of Masturbation, Vulgar Sexual Language Violence: Death by car accident Inappropriate Language: Shit, Christ, Fuck, Ass, Bastard, Piss, Bitch, Dick, Pissed Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking, Smoking, Marijuana Use Other Issues: Suicide, Child Abuse (less)
Cover Impressions: I really like the cover of this one. I received an EARC, but I really wish I could see the physical copy. I am rooting for shiny an...moreCover Impressions: I really like the cover of this one. I received an EARC, but I really wish I could see the physical copy. I am rooting for shiny and textured scales.
The Gist: Rudy's brother suffers from Cystic Fibrosis. In an attempt to save his life, the family moves to a remote island that is famed for a special type of fish that can heal and prolong life. Without the excitement of friends and frivolity, Rudy finds himself longing for a companion - and then he finds Teeth, and begins to discover the dark secrets of the island and its inhabitants.
Review: I requested Teeth because I had heard great things about Gone Gone Gone and it has been sitting on my TBR pile for quiet a while. Those who love Hannah Moskowitz seem to RAVE about her. However, if Teeth is indicative of her writing style, perhaps I best stay away.
I loved the premise for Teeth. The mysterious island with magic fish that could heal and prolong life in otherwise terminal cases, was fascinating. I longed to find out what made the fish so special and what secrets were being hidden by the inhabitants of the island. Unfortunately, much like Rudy, once I began to receive my answers, I wished I had never asked the questions. The setting was interesting, the morality issue that made up much of the first half of the book was thought- provoking. Had the novel continued in this frame of mind, I would have been left much more satisified.
To be honest, I am finding it difficult to write about what bothered me, and that is a testament to how much it bothered me. (view spoiler)[Teeth involves numerous incidences of rape. We see both a woman raped by a fish, and a mermaid/fishboy raped by men - over and over again. Once this plot point was revealed, I could no longer enjoy the story. Even now, it leaves a sick taste in my mouth to recall the details. (hide spoiler)]
Moskowitz is certainly a writer who can evoke strong emotions in the reader. She is skilled at writing in a way that is raw and heart-wrenching. I do believe that most readers will recognize the beauty that can be found in this story. Teeth is well written, and I can recognize the genius in it - I just didn't like it. I felt like I was watching a car crash - I knew that continuing would result in seeing things that I could never forget but I just could not look away. In the end, I could not get past the pain. I ached for Teeth. I wanted so badly to rescue him and by the last page, I was left feeling sad and empty.
Due to the nature of the rape in this book, as well as the frequent swearing, I would not recommend it for my teenage students.
Age: AT LEAST 16 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing, talk of masturbation Violence: Rape, Physical fighting/abuse, gunplay, murder Inappropriate Language: LOTS! Fuck, Shit, Slut, Bastard, Bitch, Asshole Substance Use/Abuse: Smoking ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Cover Impressions: This cover is kind of boring. We have Gwen's often mentioned violet eyes as a focal point but I am not a fan of the dragon? Griffin...moreCover Impressions: This cover is kind of boring. We have Gwen's often mentioned violet eyes as a focal point but I am not a fan of the dragon? Griffin? in the background. I am also annoyed by the portrayal of her snowflake necklace. The description in the book is of a delicate diamond tipped snowflake - yet the one in the cover image looks like it was picked up at the dollar store.
The Gist: Still reeling from the escape of Loki and Gwen's brush with death at the hands of his reapers, her safe haven at Mythos Academy is shattered by the appearance of the Protectorate. Suddenly Gwen is being accused of the unthinkable and she must defend herself or face execution.
Review: I read Crimson Frost right on the heels of finishing the first three books in this series. In the beginning, I cut Gwen quite a bit of slack. In series like these you often find a deeply flawed (and often annoying) main character whose experiences force her to grow as a person and gain some confidence in her abilities. However, Gwen just seemed to get more irritating as the books continued. I kept wanting her to grow up a little, but she never does. She is unable to piece together even the most obvious of clues and spends a lot of the book whining about her circumstances. She never stands up for her self and is incredibly self-centered. The other characters serve only to rescue Gwen, or to listen to her moan. Despite including several interesting mythologies, the only characters we really get to see in action are Spartans, Valkyries and, occasionally, Amazons. Why even bother mentioning the other types of warriors if you never plan to use them?
The plot itself is very predictable - partly because Gwen has to be beaten over the head with multiple clues before she will clue in to what is going on. I often found myself skimming pages because I had already figured out the plot twists and was waiting for Gwen to catch up. The action also ground to a halt every time that we came into contact with one of the villains. They seemed to all be suffering from some strange compulsion to spend pages explaining plans and facts that the reader has already figured out. It is almost like a satire of every action movie where the villain takes an inordinate amount of time to reveal every detail of his nefarious plot - except in the Mythos Academy novels, it isn't funny.
The first half of this book was dull and frustrating. Jennifer Estep is the queen of the re-cap. She feels the need to repeat (often in a very close to copy - paste fashion) nearly every detail from every book. I know what you are saying: but recapping is great for those who don't read the series back to back and yes, I agree. However, the repetition that bothers me is of innocuous points that do nothing to further the storyline. For example, in every single book she feels the need to remind me that the library is more hangout that place of work and that students go there to hook up, even going so far as to remind the reader that Gwen regularly finds condoms in the stacks. I DID NOT NEED TO READ THAT FOUR TIMES!
All of that being said, I think that I am mostly upset by this book because it has so much potential. The world that Estep has created is unique and interesting. I love novels that re-work and combine different mythologies. I enjoyed the side characters whenever they got a (brief) moment in the spotlight and sometimes found myself longing for the series to follow Daphne instead of Gwen. I also keep getting the feeling that this series is being stretched too thin. It could have been well developed and wrapped up within three or four books but, based on the plot progression thus far, is more likely to take nine or ten. Unfortunately, I think I will be getting off on this stop - that is, unless the next book promises more Logan and Daphne, less Gwen and some closure on a few underlying issues.
Age: 16 and up Gender: Female Sex: Kissing, talk of hooking up/sex Violence: Swordplay, lots of death Inappropriate Language: Whore, Slut, Bitch, Pissed, Ass Substance Use/Abuse: underage drinking, talk of marijuana use. (less)
Cover Impressions: Yuck. The colors are horrid. The image is bland.
The Gist: Chronicles a year in the life of Arnold Spirit as he attempts to reconci...moreCover Impressions: Yuck. The colors are horrid. The image is bland.
The Gist: Chronicles a year in the life of Arnold Spirit as he attempts to reconcile his life as the only Indian in a white school and the only traitor on his reservation.
Review: Books like this are particularly difficult to review. These are the books that tend to get glowing 5 star reviews and are frequently listed as one of the Top YA books of ALLLLLLL time. I tend to find myself disappointed in these books. While I enjoyed this book I did have some issues that would stop me from either recommending it to my students or using it in my classroom. It was certainly well written and I can see the raw nature appealing to young readers. The character of Arnold was amusingly self-deprecating and honest. He did not shy away from embarrassing topics and was very frank on some touchy issues. His relationships were flawed, but felt very real. A great deal of the plot centered around basketball - which I will admit, bored me a little simply because I do not like sports. At all. But, I can see how this would appeal to (particularly male) students.
I did feel uncomfortable at times with what I couldn't help but think of as Indian bashing (though I am sure some other readers will wholeheartedly disagree with me). It seemed that Arnold painted nearly all the Native Americans on his reservation as drunken and violent. It bothered me that he was so easily accepted and loved by the white students at his new school, while he was still seen as an outcast on the reservation. The deaths in the story came very abruptly and, as we had spent very little time with those characters, did not have the emotional impact that they could have.
From a teaching standpoint, I had a problem with the very casual use of some very strong language, particularly, of homophobic slurs in every day speech. I realize that this happens, I realize that it is a realistic portrayal of the way that many teens speak. However, I do not feel that this is something that should be treated as mainstream. If we continue to treat this behavior as "normal" how can we ever expect it to stop?
Age: 16 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing, Talk of Masturbation Violence: Fist-Fighting, Death by Car Accident, Death by Gunfire, Death by Fire Inappropriate Language: LOTS!!! Substance Use/Abuse: Alcohol Abuse(less)
Cover Impressions: I got the movie tie-in edition on sale. The cover is decent. It will...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: I got the movie tie-in edition on sale. The cover is decent. It will definitely appeal to boys and the cute guy on the cover will grab the girl's attention. I like the sparks and embers but would have like a little more indication of flame and a clearer image of the symbol in the background.
The Gist: 9 children escaped the doomed planet of Lorien in the middle of an attack by the Mogdorians. (Unsure of the spelling here - don't care enough to go back and check). They have been placed under a "protection" spell that requires them to be killed in order (wonder how they chose who would be number one?). Three have died already and we meet John Smith, number four.
Review: I was pretty exited to read this book. Not because of the movie (didn't know about that) or the plot, but because it was the first book chosen by my new Junior High Book Club. The kids made suggestions and I chose the final pick (mostly based on availability). A lot of my students claimed to have loved this book, so I couldn't wait to see what interested them so much.
By the end, I had begun to doubt their taste. First, the good things. This book has quite a bit of action (mostly at the end). It has a love interest and a main character with super special powers. The plot was interesting enough at the beginning but began to fall apart by the end. Perhaps the problem is that I question while I am reading and many students have not yet learned to do that or do not have a varied repitoire from which to compare writing. Either way, I did have some issues here.
First of all, I liked the premise behind the book but found some plot-holes frustrating. It was never explained WHY the Mogdorians are spending so much time chasing these kids around Earth. They have already gotten what they wanted from Lorien - slaughtering (hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands?) full grown Loriens with developed powers, so why would they be worried about a handful of kids rather than using their resources for a full scale invasion of Earth? I understand that in a series like this, these type of secrets are often saved for further books but it seemed like no-one but me even questioned why John was being hunted. I was also frustrated at the lack of revelations by the end of the novel. I do not need to know EVERYTHING at the end of the first book, but it would have been nice to learn SOMETHING - John could have opened the letter at the very least! The plot itself was fairly predictable and the big shocking moments were things that I had assumed would happen after only the first couple chapters.
The characters were mostly bland and annoying. John refuses to face his situation, seems cocky for no reason and makes selfish decisions that puts everyone else in danger. He has an amazing ability to ignore what is going on around him and seems to be more interested in making out with his girlfriend than training to save his world. Sarah was boring beyond belief - so boring in fact that I just had to go look up her name because I couldn't remember it. She does not appear to have a single flaw and is beloved by everyone, despite her having recently turned her back on her boyfriend and the cheerleading squad - one would think those people might be bitter but, no, they still love her. The side characters mostly blend together, particularly the football players, or are mildly interesting, like Sam, but don't get any real development.
The action scenes in this novel seemed to be missing something. At the end, they were prolonged with attack after attack but still didn't have a real sense of urgency. The tickle trunk Lorien Chest, made problems a little to easy to solve and I couldn't help thinking "There's an App for that!" every time they opened it. The only characters that I really cared about were Henri and the dog. This left me bored for most of the action.
I can understand why my students would have liked this book (many of them liked Twilight after all) but I did not have any desire to read the teaser for the next book, let alone actually continue the series.
Age: 16 and Up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing Violence: Bullying, Hand to Hand combat, Knifeplay, Gunplay, Violence to animals Inappropriate Language: Shit, Bitch, Damn, Dick Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking (less)
Cover Impressions: The cover is super cute. The colors are great and the image of the ro...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The cover is super cute. The colors are great and the image of the robot is fun. I can see where this would appeal to kids.
The Gist: Donovan Curtis doesn't know why he does the things that he does. He just gets an itch and before he knows it, he is in a world of trouble. When his biggest mistake yet inadverntantly leads to a mix up that gets him labeled as "Gifted", Donovan is thrust into a world of the super-smart and the super-geeky. As he struggles to fly under the radar, he becomes more involved than he ever thought he would and starts to see the Academy Geeks in a whole new light.
Ungifted is a well-written middle grade novel. It is a fun, light story that is perfect for young readers and easy enough for reluctant readers. The plot progresses steadily and has some very light hearted moments. I enjoyed watching Donovan as realized that the gifted kids were fun and interesting and that they were his true friends. Some of his actions left Donnie a little unlikeable, but he did manage to grow by the end of the novel.
The other characters are cute, if a little stereotypical. I enjoyed Noah the most and was amused by his constant yearning to be expelled from the Academy. Chloe was also a cute character, but I felt the romantic element a little unnecessary and distracting.
I wasn't a big fan of the alternating narrative. Perhaps if it had been less random and had a little more development among fewer characters, I would have enjoyed it more. I also noticed an odd undercurrent of public school bashing. Admittedly, as a Canadian, I am not fluent in the issues plaguing the American school system, however, as a teacher, I felt a little insulted. We do the best we can with what we are given and I felt that the author wasn't giving that process credit.
I can see this book appealing to boys (as most of Gordon Korman's books do) and being an enjoyable read for those reluctant readers.
Age: 10 and up Gender: Both Sex: None Violence: Bullying Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: None (less)
Cover Impressions: Meh. Boring imagery - doesn't do the book justice.
Review: What can I say about this book that hasn't already been said? I was never forced to read it while in school (or university), but it has remained on my list of classics to read. To be honest, I knew very little about it prior to starting, but I can now see why it has become a staple in so many classrooms. The writing style is fluid and prose beautiful, without being inaccessible for today's students. The historic setting transports the reader to a slower time that is often looked upon with nostalgia and longing. However, the subject matter soon turns and reveals the dark underbelly of this society.
The part about this novel that I truly loved was its characters. Scout has an incredible voice and she interjects a wonderful sense of humor to a plot that would otherwise have gotten far too serious for young readers. The author managed to write a child that is precocious, innocent and most importantly - believable. The adult characters are also wonderfully drawn, with strengths and flaws
The audio version of this book was fantastic for my traffic-ridden commute. The pace was slower than many of the other books I have listened to and the prose flowed like smooth chocolate - which worked very well to keep me calm, I must admit. Sissy Spacek was an great choice as narrator and she did a wonderful job of embodying the voice of Scout.
I truly enjoyed To Kill a Mockingbird, and it has inspired me to seek out other classic YA in audiobook format.
Age: 15 and up Gender: Both Sex: None Violence: Gunplay, Knifeplay, Discussion of Rape Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: None(less)
Cover Impressions: Prior to reading the book, I kinda liked the cover. The contrasting c...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: Prior to reading the book, I kinda liked the cover. The contrasting colors worked well together and I liked the image of the cheerleader/zombie killer. However, having read the book, I don't like that the cover image doesn't feature the main character. The cheerleader character is anything but kick-ass, and doesn't really deserve cover billing.
The Gist: During a school trip rest stop, Bobby hides out on the bus in order to avoid her heinous new classmates. When they are emerge craving brains more than burgers, Bobby and a handful of survivors must fight to escape and to get to the bottom of the this strange outbreak.
Review: I will admit, this is an odd choice for me. I love recieving review copies from Scholastic, but this is one that I definitely would not have chosen on my own.
You see, I have issues with zombies. I don't generally watch movies or tv shows or read books about zombies because they make me uncomfortable. I know, that is kind of the point. But, I find that I cannot relax with this type of fiction because I am constantly waiting for the next attack and I spend a great deal of time yelling at the characters to "keep moving", "look behind you" or "stop talking and pick up a freakin weapon!". For the sake of a book that isn't all that bad, I will try to put my personal issues aside.
Undead opens with Bobby, who has just returned to the UK from living in the US for several years. Her parents thought it would be a great idea to send her on a pre-school trip to get to know her new classmates. Instead, Bobby has spent the trip counting the minutes until it is over. When those same students mysteriously die and are raised as zombies, she is forced to cooperate with a cheerleader, an uber-geek and a delinquent in order to fight for survival. Bobby is strong willed and determined. She will take risks and has a very take charge attitude. The other characters don't add a whole lot and were pretty one dimensional and forgettable.
The plot featured some odd twists and turns. There were times of flat out action, followed by lots of lag. I also couldn't understand why these kids weren't better prepared. Surely they have seen a zombie movie or two, so why weren't they grabbing food off the shelves and making weapons instead of wasting time having EVERYONE gather around to watch video feedback? The storyline also featured an odd conspiracy theory that is never clearly explained - I was left with more questions than answers. The humor in the writing just didn't work for me and the constant fighting among the teens got old fast.
As with most Zombie books, this one suffers from a severe case of "anything that can go wrong - will". I personally, find this incredibly frustrating. I am left rolling my eyes and yelling "oh COME ON!". It also featured the typical: "Thank God we are safe - oh wait, we really aren't" type ending.
Clearly zombie books are just not for me but I can see where this would appeal to other readers, especially teens looking for something exciting.
Age: 16 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing Violence: zombie attacks Inappropriate Language: None, Pseudo-Swears Substance Use/Abuse: Underage drinking (less)
Cover Impressions: The cover is cute, but pretty typical of YA romance novels. Not somet...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The cover is cute, but pretty typical of YA romance novels. Not something that would grab my attention on a shelf.
The Gist: Anna has been sent to Paris against her will. Her father has signed her up for a year at the School of America in Paris. There she meets Etienne, suave, charming and ... taken. As they grow closer, Anna learns about friendship, desire and love.
Review: Anna and the French kiss is one of those books that everyone seems to love. It was remarkable 1) how many of my Goodreads friends had read it and 2) how many of them raved about it.
I was not able to join them.
The writing was great. The romantic scenes were sweet and exciting. You cannot beat a setting like Paris. However, I hated both Anna and Etienne. When characters or scenes annoy me, I have a tendency to skip or skim over them. But while listening to the audio book, I wasn't able to do that. Instead, I found myself yelling at both Anna and Etienne for being idiots. They were both hypocritical and got angry at each other (and the other characters) for actions that they themselves committed earlier or later. They danced around each other for an entire book and were constantly doubting the other's feelings. Etienne was the "beautiful boy" that every girl wanted and Anna was the girl that every boy immediately lusted after. Come on. No girl is so hot that every male within sight falls at her feet and she HAS NO IDEA! This called for some serious eye rolling.
I read several reviews that claimed that this book was HILARIOUS. I did not get that. The only humorous passages that I can recall were where Anna was being a complete klutz (I hate the typical pretty, klutzy girl character) or acting like a moron - which annoyed me more than they amused me. The other characters only served to move the plot along and/or reveal information and did not really get a life of their own.
I could rant and rave about all the nit-picky things that I didn't like about this book BUT I can completely understand why teens love it. It was cute and romantic (even though I only wanted the characters together so that they wouldn't force their special brand of idocracy on anybody else).
No more Stephanie Perkins for me. I am far too cynical for this type of book.
Age: 16 and up Gender: Female Sex: Kissing, Talk of sex Violence: Physical fighting Inappropriate Language: Dick, Bastard, Shit, Prick, Fuck, Slut, Bitch Substance Use/Abuse: Underage drinking (less)
Cover Impressions: The color covers are pretty but it feels like someone went a little o...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The color covers are pretty but it feels like someone went a little overboard in photoshop. The tattoo and violet eyes would have been much more impressive if they had been part of the original photo shoot rather than being added later. I do like the stark, unfeeling expression on the model's face.
The Gist: Elysia is a Teen Beta Clone. Her entire purpose is to please the family that has bought her - by whatever means necessary. Living in the island paradise of Demesne, life is idyllic and easy. But, as Elysia starts to learn about the underbelly of the island, secrets begin to unravel and she learns that the life of a clone may be more complicated than she ever imagined.
Review: Beta had a great premise: a world where clones are created to serve the elite, where slavery is allowed because the clones do not have a soul. Against this backdrop, we meet Elysia, one of the first Teen Betas - an experimental type of clone that has not been fully tested. Entering the world at 16, Elysia becomes the companion for a group of teens and is allowed a glimpse at the secrets underlying this tropical paradise. The first few chapters showed a great deal of promise, however things went downhill from there.
I could not develop any feelings for the character of Elysia. I could understand the flat affect at the beginning of the book as a result of her being newly "born", however, I was looking for growth over the course of the novel and I didn't get it. I felt no connection with her, or her predicament. I also found that Elysia made a rather large leap from complete compliance to utter anger and violence with little indication that this was coming.
The relationship factor in this book was maddening. We have a case of insta-love, followed by a completely one-sided infatuation that bordered on being completely pathetic. In an attempt to make her paramour feel something, Elysia encourages sexual exploration and drug use. To me, it felt very much like a "if I just do this, then he will love me" situation and that made me sick to my stomach. That being said, once the first love interest is out of the picture, Elysia very easily accepts a new man, proving that she clearly does not have feelings for anybody - despite her arguments to the contrary. This weird love triangle at the end felt like it had been tacked on simply to garner interest in reading the sequel.
The first few chapters were rife with infodumping, but, beyond that, there was some action and time to learn about an interesting world. However, once Elysia finds her love interest the plot grinds to a virtual stand-still. I can barely even remember what happened during these chapters other than playing a weird video game, doing drugs and eating. Despite the politically charged atmosphere and Rogue Clone issues bubbling beneath the surface, we are forced to endure trips to the beach and endless talk about swimming (I get it Elysia - you like the water, now MOVE ON!). I was very disturbed by the unnecessary drugs, nudity, sex and rape in this novel. It seemed like every few pages featured a mention of 'Raxia or of someone getting near naked for no reason. Even if I loved this novel, there is NO WAY I could recommend it for my students.
I will not be sticking around for the sequel to Beta.
Age: 16 and up Gender: Female Sex: Kissing, Nudity, Sexual Experimentation Violence: Rape, Murder Inappropriate Language: Slut, Whore, Bitch Substance Use/Abuse:Use of imaginary drug, 'Raxia Other Issues: Cutting, Slavery (less)
Cover Impressions: The cover grabbed me enough to make me take a look at the synopsis, s...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The cover grabbed me enough to make me take a look at the synopsis, so that is something. I like the graffiti feel of it, but would prefer for it to be a little more gritty, like an image taken from an overpass - raw and real.
The Gist: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children chronicles a few, particularly eventful months in the life of Gabe, a teenaged transexual boy. Gabe was born Elizabeth and has recently "come out" to his parents about his true sexuality and his decision to stop hiding. He has also begun working on a late night radio show which forces him into the spotlight and endangers himself, his friends and his family when some people decide that Gabe would be better off staying hidden.
Review: I chose to request this galley because I have read so little YA fiction that features trans characters. As a teacher, I am always trying to find ways to better understand the struggles that my students might be going through and I hoped Beautiful Music for Ugly Children might provide some insight. This was one of the books high points. It was interesting and sometimes moving to watch the characters as they struggled with Liz's decision to start living as Gabe. There was some conflict between he and his best friend as she tried to decide what their new relationship would look like and where the boundary lines lay. There was also a struggle in his parents that I, as a mom, could understand. Having raised Elizabeth from a little girl, her parents displayed feelings of anger, disbelief and guilt as they struggled to accept her as Gabe and to change the way that their family interacted. It is easy for books like this to try to do too much and to make a complete 180 from emotional wreak to warm, loving family, but I feel like Beautiful Music for Ugly Children didn't make this leap and that it showed, instead, a believable level of growth on the part of the parents.
This novel had some great potential and it touched on some very important themes. However, I feel that it could have done more. There was the underlying threat of violence but this never felt entirely real. If the author had chosen to start off small and build toward the ultimate showdown, I think it would have felt more realistic. There was also the tendency for things to be a little too easy. There just happens to be an automatic audience to a brand new radio show that is so enthralled by the DJ's music choices that they take on tasks to please him? There just happens to be a radio contest looking for a young, fresh DJ to launch their career? The transgendered kid comes out and is immediately embraced by his (hot) best friend and pursued by his (also hot) classmate? Opportunities seemed to fall in Gabe's lap and things were a little too convienent for my taste.
I also had a little trouble connecting with the character of Gabe. I liked him, sure. But I didn't really CARE about him. There was something I couldn't put my finger on stopped me from emphasizing with him. Perhaps it was the length. This is a short novel, and there was A LOT crammed into those pages. That didn't leave a lot of room for character development or back-story. I really would have preferred if the novel started with Liz, a closeted transgendered kid, and then chronicled her transition to Gabe and coming out to her family and friends, rather than to have started after all that occurred.
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children fell short of my expectations, but was still a good read that provided some insight into the feelings of a teen in transition.
Age: 16 and up Gender: Either Sex: Kissing, Talk of Erections, Allusions to Sex Violence: Threats, Sexual Violence, Attack with a Baseball Bat Inappropriate Language: LOTS! Bitch, Ass, Dick, Shit, Carpet Muncher, Goddamn, Jesus, Pussy Substance Use/Abuse: Smoking, Underage Drinking (less)
Cover Impressions: The cover is cute. I love that it represents New York without relying...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The cover is cute. I love that it represents New York without relying on the predictable and cliched images that are so often used.
The Gist: When Dash finds a mysterious red notebook tucked onto a shelf at his favorite used book store, he is faced with a set of dares. These challenges reveal tidbits about the author, Lilly and encourage Dash to set some dares of his own. As they pass the notebook back and forth, Dash and Lily learn a little about each other, and a lot about themselves
Review: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares starts off with a really interesting premise: two teens, who have never met, are drawn together through dares and challenges set in a notebook that they pass back and forth. Having never visited New York (but always longed to go) I loved how the adventure carried the characters through some iconic (and not so iconic) sites in the city. The fact that it takes place at Christmas, and Lily's love for the season, made me really wish I was reading it during December and I think it would be a great holiday read.
Dash and Lily are both great characters, but in very different ways. Dash is intense and brooding, with a vocabulary that will give any reader a reason to dig out their dictionary (or download a new app). His manner of speaking was a little pretentious and stopped me from really rooting for him. I also think that it would put off some readers, particularly teen boys. Lily, on the other hand, is sweet and positive. Her happiness is infectious and really helps set that holiday mood. I had a lot of fun watching her rebel a little and loved that we saw some growth by the end.
I enjoyed the first half of this book much more than the second half. The dares and challenges were entertaining and kept me wondering about what the kids would come up with next. However, once they finally met each other, I lost some interest. Things became awkward and more unbelievable. I also got a little annoyed with watching the characters continuously get in their own way and was sort of hoping for a less expected ending. Despite these issues, Dash & Lily's Book of Dares is a fun, quick read that I think would be a great pick for the holidays.
Age: 15 and up Gender: More suited for teen girls Sex: Kissing Violence: None Inappropriate Language: Fuck, Shit, Hell, Prick, Douche, Bitch, Whore, Piss Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking (less)
Cover Impressions: The cover has some beautiful elements but, for me, it feels like it i...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The cover has some beautiful elements but, for me, it feels like it is missing something. The script is stunning, the trees create a fantastically creepy atmosphere, but I keep looking for something else to rest my eye upon and there just isn't anything. If I were designing this cover - I would have added a full moon so we at least had a focal point.
The Gist: Ethan Wate is counting down the days until he can escape the small town of Gatlin. He spends his days barely tolerating his classmates and his nights struggling to hold on to a girl that he has never met. When Lena Duchannes arrives at Stonewall Jackson High School, everyone can tell she is different. Ethan finds himself seeking her out and will soon discover that they have a mysterious and powerful connection.
Review: I have encountered this book (and the others in the series) off an on throughout my forays through the world of YA. In reading the synopsis, however, the whole mysterious romantic connection turned me off from picking up the book. Then I encountered the trailer for the movie to be released in 2013 and it looked so good I just had to give the book a shot and decided to try the audio version.
Let me tell you, it was loooooooooong. Normally, I find audiobooks make my commute better and make dealing with traffic a heck of a lot easier (just more time for the book!). But this one left me frustrated. I found myself yelling at the characters as they whined about their lives. Boo hoo, my home town is boring (Ethan) Wah Wah my life is weird and full of magic (Lena). I swear, if I heard Lena say "I am going to go dark" one more time I was going to throw my ipod under the wheels of a semi. It was even more irritating because the underlying plot was great. It had lots of mystery, great settings and interesting characters. But it seemed that just as I was getting some answers and seeing the plot progress, we would revert to moody Lena, queen of complaining. I really wanted to shake her - you have super-fun powers, DO SOMETHING WITH THEM! While Beautiful Creatures had a wonderfully creepy setting and some fantastically exciting scenes, there was just too long in between them and I got tired of waiting.
I was not a huge fan of the narrator, though he was competent enough. However, at one point, the narration switches to Lena and a female voice. I did not like her at all! This new narrator displayed little to no emotion and it completely pulled me from the world that the author had created. Because this occurred during a particularly important and action-filled section of the book, it was incredibly jarring and ruined those emotional moments for me.
This book is also guilty of perpetrating one of my pet peeves: the uncaring school. As a teacher, I take a real offense when I encounter books that feature teachers and administration who turn a blind eye to the blatant bullying that occurs in their school. I take a special offense when the teachers and administration become and active part of the problem. Yes, there are bad teachers out there. Yes, there are bad principals out there. But the majority of us did not get into this profession so that we could ignore the obvious distress of our students.
The ending of Beautiful Creatures left me unsatisfied. There were just too many questions left unanswered and, while I want the answers to them, I am just not willing to read/listen to the next book just yet. Especially as other reviewers have noted that it is even more angsty than the first.
Age: 13 and up Gender: Female Sex: Kissing Violence: Fist-fighting, Magical attacks, Stabbing Inappropriate Language: Bitch, Piss (there may be others but I forget) Substance Use/Abuse: Underage drinking, cigar smoking (less)
Cover Impressions: Meh. Not a fan. The color is awful and clashes grossly with the "Reco...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: Meh. Not a fan. The color is awful and clashes grossly with the "Recorded Books" bands. I am not a fan of the all small letter title and author name, nor of the odd picture in the corner. It all feels a little hipster to me and I'm not sure that I am cool enough for it.
The Gist: Charlie is starting his first year of High School. Feeling more than a little scared, he begins writing letters to a mysterious reader and chronicles the life of he and his newfound friends. His letters are filled with astute observations and a frank openness that allows a rare glimpse into the mind of a sensitive, damaged, and troubled young man who is struggling to find himself.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower was one of those books that I think I enjoyed more as an audio book than I would have as a physical book. The narrative is told through the letters that Charlie writes to a mysterious reader. This format would appear to be rather limiting but it actually works quite well in allowing an in-depth glimpse into the mind of a very intelligent, but damaged young man.
Charlie does not view the world the way that an average 16 year old would. He feels things and notices things that others would simply pass by. He is also maddeningly selfless, to the point where he allows others to hurt him, rather than speak out against their actions. Below the surface, however, lies a font of anger and the possibility of violence. Charlie is the type of character that you want to hug. Entering is world makes me wonder about my own students and what issues they might be dealing with that we can never see.
The other characters were so fascinating and compelling that I am a little disappointed in never being able to see their side of the story. I would actually be very happy if Chbosky were to write two companion novels chronicling that one year of high school but from Sam and Patrick's points of view. The reason I chose to finally read this book, was because of the trailer and the casting of Emma Watson as Sam. Having finished the book, I can now say that I am very much looking forward to seeing the movie and I hope they do these wonderful characters justice.
I would like to note that this is not a book that I would place in my junior high classroom. There are many instances of drug use, sex and violence that would make me recommend it for an older audience.
Age: 16 and up (AT LEAST!) Gender: Both Sex: Masturbation, Rape, Molestation, Heterosexual Sex, Homosexual Sex Violence: Fighting, Rape, Suicide Inappropriate Language: Fuck, Queer, Faggot, Pussy Substance Use/Abuse: Marijuana use, Smoking, Underage Drinking, Use of LSD(less)
Cover Impressions: The cover is kind of cool and I like the image of the cloak made up o...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The cover is kind of cool and I like the image of the cloak made up of birds, however, it didn't really entice me. There is something about the face that doesn't quite match up with the creepy feel that I believe they were going for.
The Gist: The world has undergone a Rift. One side is safe, the other is a wasteland. At least that is what everyone is told.
Review: To be honest. This book annoyed and angered me. This usually happens when I can see vast potential that is smothered by poor plot pacing and lack-luster character development. In Magisterium, we are introduced to Glenn Morgan, who dreams only of leaving this world for a distant planet. Glenn bored me from the first moment. She is controlling of her world and her emotions in a way that prevented me from forming any type of connection to her (even pity). I simply could not understand the choices that she made, from turning her father in to the authorities to blindly stumbling through a world that she knew nothing about (and wanted to know nothing about). Glenn came across and naive and downright stupid. Case in point: her father is arrested, her friend is shot and she is on the run from a government that has lied to everyone under its control - and yet, she still wants to return and pretend that nothing every happened. She is not the least bit compassionate or curious and often made me scream in frustration
Glenn's friend, Kevin, seems nice enough and had the potential to be someone I could root for, however, about halfway through the book he undergoes a mysterious personality change and suddenly he is just as much of a jerk as Glenn is. The reason? Magic. The reason is always magic. Magic that is not expanded upon or explained and is used as a crutch to explain every moment of weird shit. We are simply supposed to swallow this ready made excuse like a bitter pill and move on. We are also expected to believe that, despite the lack of barrier or patrols on the border between the Colloquium (hated this word btw) and the supposed wasteland, no one ever goes there? Seriously? No teenage dares, no conspiracy obsessed nuts, no wandering children ever pass through the apparently thin stretch of forest? OH wait, we do get to meet one family, but they kill themselves before we get a chance to actually learn anything.
On that note, I must mention the brutality. But not brutality in order to examine a massive flaw in a government system or with human nature in general, no, this was simply bloodshed for the sake of bloodshed. I don't like this approach in adult novels and I despise it in YA books. It seems authors like this seem to forget that this is not HBO and not every death has to be a graphic mess.
By the time I hit the last 100 pages, I was completely over this book, it's characters and it's world building. The premise was interesting, it had great potential, but somewhere along the line it got bogged down in weird shit and forgot to tell a story. I am not sure if this is part of a series, but I will not be sticking around to find out.
Age: 16 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing Violence: LOTS: execution, gunplay, knifeplay, suicide Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: None (less)
Cover Impressions: The cover image for The Raven Boys is really stunning. The beautiful...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The cover image for The Raven Boys is really stunning. The beautiful blues, blacks and red work wonderfully with the eggshell background. Closer inspection of the raven reveals swirling brushstrokes that add depth and texture.
The Gist: On a cold spring night, Blue stands in an abandoned church yard waiting for the parade of death to begin, not that she has ever seen anything. Blue is not a psychic, she serves more as a battery, enhancing the powers of those who already display abilities. But, on this night, everything changes. The face of a boy emerges from the darkness and gives her one name: Gansey.
A member of the ultra elite Aglionby school, Gansey's balances the demands of his schooling with his passion for ley-lines and the search for a long lost king. When he crosses paths with Blue he and his friends, Adam, Ronan and Noah, finally start to see magic in the everyday and are sent on an adventure that will test their friendships and their dedication to the search.
Review: The Raven Boys surprised me. I was not a fan of Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver series and I entered into this world with a little reluctance. Things did not start particularly strongly. I was not instantly enamored of any of the characters and I found the world building a little slow and difficult to follow. However, once the characters began to interact and made huge leaps in the progress of their search, I was completely drawn in.
As I mentioned, I was not a huge fan of any of the characters. I found Gansey and Ronan rather difficult to like (both for very different reasons) and, while I liked Adam, I found his "I'm poor but I insist on fighting on my own for everything and not accepting a lick of help from the people who clearly care about me" attitude more annoying than endearing. I did enjoy Noah - though I would have liked to see him feature more and Blue was cute but I think her quirkiness could have been played up a little more. These initial impressions, however, may change as the series continues and more of the characterization is revealed.
The true strength in this novel, lies in the world building and the plot advancement that occurs in the second half. Once the characters truly embarked upon their quest and started to uncover new mysteries I was thrust into the story and entangled with the magic of this new world. The woods becomes a whole other character, beautiful and enchanting one moment, tricky and fickle the next. For the first time in quite a long time, I found myself completely surprised by a particular plot twist and from that moment on, I was hooked.
While there is nothing particularly racy about the plot of The Raven Boys, it does involve a smattering of swear words and an abusive situation that would make me recommend it for my older and more mature students.
I will be anxiously awaiting the next installment in this series. Write fast, please, Mrs. Stiefvater.
Age: 16 and up Gender: Both Sex: None Violence: Fist fighting, Gunplay, Physical Abuse, Murder by blunt forced trauma Inappropriate Language: Bitch, Fuck, Shit, Bastard, Jesus, Shit Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking (less)
Cover Impressions: The cover is cute and would definitely appeal to a teen audience. The...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The cover is cute and would definitely appeal to a teen audience. The imagery charmingly hints at a kiss and the colors are eye-catching.
The Gist: Tink Aaron-Martin is not your average teenager. After being grounded (again) she forgoes the moping and whining typical of her age and instead escapes with her laptop up her favorite tree and proceeds to write an encyclopedia of her life.
Review: This novel has a very unique style. The narrative is woven throughout encyclopedia entries like: MegaMall, Haywire and Virgorama. Some of the entries serve only as amusing interludes while others move the plot forward. This effect took a little getting used to, and I must admit that as the novel went on, I found the frequent footnotes less endearing and more distracting.
The story itself has some fantastic bones. Tink is a special young girl with a not so nice best friend, two brothers, one who is autistic and one who is just annoying and parents who seem to forget that she exists. However, by the end of the story there isn't a great deal of progression. We see some growth in the family, and Tink *sort of* lets go of her friendship with Freddie Blue but I don't really feel that Tink changed as a person or that she accomplished anything other than winning "The Boyfriend Race".
Though I had some problems with the narrative, I do feel that this novel would appeal to a middle grade audience. I can see a number of my students enjoying the alternative writing style and sharing Tink's quirky sense of humor.
Age: 9-12 Gender: Female Sex: Kissing Violence: Accident involving a car Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: None (less)
Cover Impressions: This cover is super cute. I love the colors and the artwork. The char...moreThis and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: This cover is super cute. I love the colors and the artwork. The character depictions are great (love the purple hair) and I can really see this grabbing the attention of some of my students.
The Gist: In this graphic novel a middle school's production of Moon over Mississippi has almost as much drama off the stage as on it. Callie works as the set designer and has some grandiose ideas (some of which actually work!). Along with her friends on the stage crew, she endeavors to pull off the best production the school has ever seen, and possibly orchestrate a love scene of her own.
Review: Drama is a well written and beautifully illustrated graphic novel. It is a quick, entertaining read that is sure to capture the hearts of readers who enjoy this genre. I don't have a lot of experience with graphic novels but I am happy to say that, in watching my students, I have seen novels like Drama in the hands of both experienced and reluctant readers.
Drama introduces some fun and interesting characters. Callie is cute, quirky, funny and (mostly) confident. She is the type of character that I love to introduce to young readers. My heart wrenched at her love troubles and soared with her triumphs. Callie and her fellow students are incredibly dedicated to their school's production and it made me very happy to read about young students taking responsibility and initiative within their school.
This novel touched on issues of love and sexuality in a way that was both mature and age appropriate. I would be happy to place this book into the hands of any of my students.
Age: 9-13 Gender: Both Sex: None - Discussion of being Gay Violence: None Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: None (less)
Cover Impressions: I love the colors in this cover. The imagery is interesting and I def...moreThis and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: I love the colors in this cover. The imagery is interesting and I definitely think it would appeal to a middle grade audience.
The Gist: Dak and Sara know that something is not right with their world. Natural disasters abound, people are plagued with mysterious remnants and a secret agency called SQ has taken ultimate control. When they stumble upon Dak's parents time travel device, the Infinity Ring, they embark on an adventure to fix the Time Breaks and restore balance to their world.
Review: A Mutiny in Time is not just the first book in new series, it is also the introduction into a multimedia experience that is sure to grab any young reader. Each book is packaged with a Hystorian's guide, a strategy guide for the online game. The game itself seems quite well done, with beautiful graphics, character interaction and fun mini-games. Teachers - here is a great opportunity to pull together reading and history with gameplay, perhaps by spending a little time studying the particular time period, reading the book and then playing the game!
A Mutiny In Time is a very fun read. The characters are unique and interesting. Dak and Sera are both geniuses in their own way. They are relatable and likeable. I can really see middle grade students connecting with these characters and following their adventures through each of the seven books. I found less of a connection with Riq in this novel, but I am looking forward to learning more of his story in the next installment.
The plot is intriguing and fast-paced. I love the incorporation of history and imagine kids will really enjoy encountering pieces of history that they already know and that it will inspire them to learn more about that time period. I am not normally a fan of time travel novels, but I was impressed by the unique premise of this one and I enjoyed reading about the different time breaks that made the history of their world so different from ours.
A Mutiny in Time is a great introduction to a fun new series. I look forward to seeing how the story develops through future books and how Scholastic will continue to incorporate gameplay in innovative new ways.
Age: 8-12 Gender: Both (boys will enjoy this one) Sex: None Violence: Gunplay, swordplay, attempted drowning Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: None (less)
Cover Impressions: I really like this cover. The colors are muted but eye-catching. You...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: I really like this cover. The colors are muted but eye-catching. You get just enough of a feel for the setting of the book and I LOVE that the cupcake dresses are featured.
The Gist: Phoebe Swift has suffered a terrible loss. Riddled with guilt and regret, she removes every trace of her old life and sets up Village Vintage, a vintage clothing shop, in the hopes of burying herself so fully in her business that she does not have time to dwell on the past. In sourcing clothing for her shop, Phoebe encounters Therese Bell, an elderly woman with painful past of her own. Through the tale of a child's blue coat, both women will come to a new understanding of love, loss and regret.
Review: In moving to a new school this year, I found myself in the thick of traffic for the first time since I started working. In an attempt to circumvent the frustration of the bumper to bumper drive, I turned to the audio of A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff. The narrator, Violet Mathieson, had a wonderful voice couple with a beautiful accent. She was also quite skilled in creating voices and accents for each of the characters. A Vintage Affair so enraptured me that I actually looked forward to getting stuck in traffic as it ensured me a few more moments in that world.
The characters themselves are almost all deeply flawed and beautifully broken. The pain of both Phoebe and Mrs. Bell was palpable, as was the love for their lost friends and their regret at not having made different choices. Supporting them, was a cast of men and women who all had issues of their own and who evoked in the reader a sense of understanding and sadness. There are no villains here.
The descriptions in this novel made me long to walk into Village Vintage, to hear the bell tinkle overhead and to trace my hand along some of the beautiful fabrics that were sure to greet me. If you have not developed a love of vintage clothing already, A Vintage Affair will certainly set you on that path. I, personally, have fantasies of a deep purple cupcake dress.
While this novel is not exactly fast paced, it doesn't lag either. The stories unfold themselves in intervals and, more often than not, the readers sneaking suspicions are proved correct. The true beauty in this novel lies in the underlying humanity behind the characters' actions and the pain and regret that is so relatable by anyone who has suffered a loss.
I highly recommend a venture into the painful and poignant world that Isabel Wolff has created. (less)
Cover Impressions: The cover is interesting but I do feel that it is missing something....moreThis and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The cover is interesting but I do feel that it is missing something. Perhaps it is the lack of color that is throwing me, though I do understand the purpose in washing it out in order to reflect how Eva had faded to nearly nothing.
The Gist: In the world of the Hybrid Chronicles every body is born with two souls, each with a distinct personality. Through their younger years, these souls exchange use of the body and are treated as two separate individuals. However, as they grow older, one soul rises and dominant and the other fades away forever. Once in a while, there is a soul that hangs on: a Hybrid - feared and hunted. This is Eva and Addie. For three years Eva has hidden away, locked inside Addie's mind while she tries to pretend that they have settled, that they are normal. But Eva sees a chance to live and be known and it will drag both of them down a dangerous path.
Review: I will admit, this book took me longer than normal to finish. Admittedly, the munchkin and I were visiting my parents which does not make for the most friendly of reading environments, but I still feel like there was something missing.
The world was interesting. The concept of two souls in one body is unique and opens the door for a lot of exploration. I did find it difficult to piece together the history that led to this particular place and time. A war was mentioned a time or two, but I would have liked some more details (perhaps they will be forthcoming in subsequent novels?) The writing was fast paced and exciting and I cannot quite put my finger on what kept me from diving for this book at every free moment.
Perhaps it was the characters. I found it difficult to connect with Addie and Eva. They had spent so much time trying to blend in and not be noticed that they came off a little bland. The secondary characters were not much more exciting. I would really have liked to have been able to tell simply through dialogue and actions, which soul had taken over the bodies at which point. Instead, I had to be told by Eva who was in control and it took something away from this unique premise.
In the end, I was a little underwhelmed. There was some character growth and a set up for the next novel but nothing that really left me satisfied in the outcome. The book was enjoyable enough that I will be coming back for the second in the series and hoping for some more dynamic characters to go with the roller-coaster plot.
Age: 16 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing Violence: Physical restraint, unnecessary surgery Inappropriate Language: None Substance Use/Abuse: None(less)
Cover Impressions: This cover feels very contemporary fiction to me. There is nothing ab...moreThis and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: This cover feels very contemporary fiction to me. There is nothing about the cover image that feels supernatural and only the title hints at the paranormal elements that are crucial to the story. I do not feel this one would stand out on a shelf.
The Gist: Having been pushed in front of a subway, Charlotte wakes to find herself in a swanky hotel and in the company of the Dead Girls Detective Agency. Together they must find Charlotte's murderer in order to give her a chance to move on.
Review: This was a very tough read for me and I am surprised that I managed to make it to the end. The Dead Girls Detective Agency had a fun and interesting premise, but the writing, characters and plot were lackluster at best.
From the very first chapter, this novel featured A LOT of dialogue. I get it, Charlotte had to be introduced into this new world and some groundwork had to be laid. However, there had to be a way to accomplish this that did not involve pages and pages of info-dumping with very little in the way of comic relief and no action whatsoever. For the first half of the book, we are forced to endure endless explanations of the rules. What the rules are, who made the rules, how to bend the rules, what happens when you break the rules. This is interrupted occasionally while Charlotte moons over the boyfriend that she left behind, realizes that he is a selfish twit, and then is informed by her ghost-mates that she gets 9 chances to break the rules - so let's go have some fun! Seriously? All that time spent building the world around these rules and then we frivilously toss them out the window so that we can drop in on Beyonce and Jay-Z? That feels cheap to me and makes me angry that I had to sit through Ghost 101 when none of it actually mattered.
The writing featured a great deal of teen-speak that did not feel genuine. In all my years of teaching, I have never heard an actual, honest-to-goodness teenager use an acronym in a sentence. Yet, these teens drop OMG's like a middle-aged parent trying to be "cool" with their kid's friends. The author also chose to engage in one of my serious pet peeves in YA: name-dropping. I know it is tempting. You want your book to be relevant, you want your readers to be able to relate to the characters: "She likes Simple Plan? OMG! I love Simple Plan - we could be BFF's!!" In reality, in stinks of desperation.
The plot of The Dead Girls Detective Agency crawled. I found myself skimming pages, just waiting to get to some action. There were some higher points, like when the girls possessed the cheerleaders (aptly named the Tornahos) but even those did not live up the the potential for hilarity. There was very little in the way of action. We had a few tense moments where the killer is revealed and a few more when Tess and Edison's connection is revealed. I was pretty disappointed at the choice of murderer. I am never a fan when the killer is revealed as being someone to whom we are barely introduced and, in this case, doesn't even warrant a name.
Despite my obvious issues with plot and writing, Cox could have pulled me back in with some kick-ass characters. Alas, this was not the case. The characters felt very cookie-cutter to me: the sweet one, the nerdy one, the fashionista, the bitch, the slutty cheerleaders, the sleazy ex-boyfriend, the new love interest. All of them acted as expected. They didn't do anything exciting and they didn't have any clever, funny or interesting dialogue. Charlotte was incredibly boring, naive and gullible. I was also bothered by the fact that she described herself as a prolific reader - yet she didn't speak like one. At one point she even says "And one time, she helped me with a Shakespeare assignment, because I'd just finished reading Harry Potter and kept getting confused between Halmet and Hagrid and it was completely messing up my essay on why he had issues." Seriously? You claim to read a vast and varied array of books and yet you have trouble distinguishing between two characters? I just couldn't relate to a girl that 1) dumped her best friend the minute she found a boyfriend 2) talked about the boyfriend non-stop for the majority of the book and 3) didn't use her special new ghostly powers to do some serious damage to the slutty cheerleaders and the boyfriend who hooked up with three of them within a few days of her funeral.
The Dead Girls Detective Agency just didn't work for me. I was expecting a fluffy and humorous read, but this one just didn't have enough substance to hold it together.
Age: 16 and up Gender: Female Sex: Kissing, talk of "hooking up" Violence: Murder - pushed in front of a subway Inappropriate Language: Bitch, Pissed, Ho, Asshole, Slut, Whore Substance Use/Abuse: None (less)
Cover Impressions: The cover is ok. It doesn't even come close to showing what a great b...moreThis and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The cover is ok. It doesn't even come close to showing what a great book this really is. I am happy to see that Noah and Echo are pictured as described (even down to the long sleeves - though I would like to have seen her in gloves). The lighting is well done, but I'm not sure this one would stand out very well on a shelf.
The Gist: Overnight, Echo Emerson went from Miss Popularity to the High School Freak and no one knows why. The horrible scars on her arms prove to Echo that something awful happened that night, but she can't remember. Under the guidance of a new therapist, she meets Noah Hutchins, a boy who is not only dark and dangerous, but just as damaged as she is. Fighting their undeniable attraction, they set out to reveal each other's secrets. In order to do so, they must each let their guard down and let the other in.
Review: Jumping on the Awesome Book Band Wagon in 3...2...1... WEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!
Confession time: were it not for the amazing reviews from other bloggers, I never would have picked up this book. I don't read a lot of contemporary fiction and I tend to steer clear of books that appear to focus mainly on a romance ESPECIALLY if they throw out the words "soul mates" or "destiny" (which the UK version does - right on the cover). But Pushing the Limits, is not one of those books. Yes, the romance is a big factor, but it loses center stage to some wonderful character development with a smattering of mystery.
McGarry has a remarkable skill in writing broken characters. Echo and Noah both had moments that forcibly grabbed me and threw me into their world. It is not often that a book can evoke such a strong emotional response in me, but this one succeeded. There were several instances where I blinked back tears or fought the urge to shake somebody (usually Echo's parents). The two main characters felt so real that I could easily picture them sitting in my classroom, trying to be invisible, while I sit behind my desk trying to think of a way to reach them. Those are the type of students that break your heart - when you can see so much potential being smothered by so much pain. As characters, Echo and Noah are always compelling, often raw and never boring. They carry the story and have the kind of chemistry that makes the reader's heart race right along with them.
I was impressed by the manner in which McGarry tackled the relationships not only between Echo and Noah but between all of the characters on the periphery, especially Noah and his brothers and Echo and her parents. It was heartbreaking to watch Echo interact with her "friends" and family as she struggled to meet their demands and win their love and to stand by while Noah spent supervised visits trying to maintain his connection to the two little boys who were his whole world. Throughout the novel, I was pleased to see a great deal of growth in both characters, but a realistic journey to it. There were struggles, there were setbacks, and, in the end, there were issues that weren't exactly solved, but where steps had been taken down the right path.
The writing in Pushing the Limits is clean (though I wish Noah would have laid off the siren and nymph comparisons) and the plot moves at a steady pace. In character driven novels such as this it is easy to let action and excitement fall by the wayside, but the truth behind Echo's scars is revealed in such as way as to keep the reader engaged. As Echo's memory returns in snatches, we begin to see the true horror and sadness behind what happened to her and how broken her family truly was. In splitting the narration between Echo and Noah, McGarry ensures that each chapter leaves the reader wanting to turn one more page, read one more line until, if you are like me, you have finished the entire book in just a few short hours.
The only mark against Pushing the Limits is that the sexual nature and vulgar language would prohibit me from recommending it to my Junior High students, though I highly recommend it for teens over 16 and adult lovers of YA novels.
Katie McGarry has earned a fan for life. I have already listed Dare You To (Beth's Story) as to-read and will count down the days until it's eventual release sometime in 2013.
Age: 16 and up Gender: Female Sex: Kissing, Sexual Acts, Vulgar Sexual Language. Violence: Fist Fight, Drugging, Attempted murder Inappropriate Language: Varied and Often: Fuck, Tits, Dick, Ass, Shit, Bitch, Jesus Christ, Pussy, Slut, Bastard, Whore
Cover Impressions: Not impressed with this particular cover. It appears that she is lyin...moreThis and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: Not impressed with this particular cover. It appears that she is lying on a bloody comforter on a bed (is that what everyone else sees?). This never happens in the book. Clare spends page after page describing her wacky designs, but all I see pictured is a simple lace top and VERY traditional necklace. The pose is boring, the color is bland and there is nothing to make me pick this one up off the shelf.
The Gist: The town of Winston, California has been rocked by tragedy for each of the past two fourth of July weekends. After moving back to the town where she grew up, Clare is simply concerned with trying to fit in with the popular kids and maybe find some summer romance. She is also trying to hide the fact that a mysterious gift allows her glimpses into people's lives just by touching their clothing. When chance brings her into contact with the jacket of Amanda, the girl who died the previous July, Clare must decide what to do with the disturbing vision.
Review: This book did not work for me at all. In theory, it had good bones: the prodigal return, a mysterious power, a possible serial killer, a bad boy love interest - but when all those things came together in Hanging By A Thread they created a big pile of "Meh". It starts off with promise, but gets bogged down once Clare starts playing Nancy Drew and each and every character is compelled to spill their guts for not apparent reason.
The writing involves a great deal of Telling rather than Showing and tons of Info Dumping. LOTS of long paragraphs explaining how events went down. Seems like everyone in this town kept their secrets for two years and then all Clare has to do is ask a simple question and they break down and confess their life story. The plot was fairly predictable and eventually, I ended up skimming paragraphs because I was getting tired of being told things that I had already figured out. Had the author thrown out a shocking twist or two, I could have been brought back on board but instead I got the standard "rich parents bail out rich kids and someone decides that they should be punished" storyline. For most of the book, Clare runs around town asking questions and when we finally did get a touch of action it was only slightly more exciting and over all too quickly.
The characters were incredibly one-dimensional. Clare was boring and spent a considerable amount of time feeling resentful of her gift and arguing with herself about whether or not she should do anything about the information that she found. She blames a lot of her problems on her mother and, despite constantly reminding us that the woman needs to slow down/find friends/reconcile with her own mother, Clare's only contribution to making these things happen is to yell at her. The other female characters were pretty boring. Rachel and her friends all sort of blended together and seemed to only serve as a way to pile on information through gossip sessions. The males, on the other hand, were all really un-likable. Clare's dad is a deadbeat, the guys she hung out with were jerks who called her a tease and a slut, and even the love interest, Jack, was an anger fueled young man with control issues.
I did not buy the romance angle for one minute. In fact, it seemed pretty unhealthy to me. Clare spent the first moments of their relationship grilling him about his murdered ex-girlfriend (to which he responded with anger and hostility) then continued to suspect he was the killer while running off to be alone with him in deserted areas of town! As with the other characters, Jack spills his guts a little too quickly and then the pair act overly familiar for kids who just met and I really doubt the validity of their connection. Clare reveals her secret (which left me yelling "what the hell, you just met like three days ago") and Jack starts throwing out lines like "Clare - it's me. Tell me what you need." (which led to a lot of eye rolling).
I normally enjoy YA Mystery and I have heard good things about Sophie Littlefield, but Hanging by a Thread just fell flat for me. On to the next book.
Age: 16 and up Gender: Female Sex: Discussed, not described, kissing. Violence: Fighting, Knifeplay Inappropriate Language: Bitches, Shit, Jesus, God-Damn, Dick, Fuck, Slut, Pisses, Jerk, Hell, Bastard Substance Use/Abuse: Underage drinking (and stealing of alcohol)
If the parents are so concerned about a serial killer, why are they letting their teens out of the house at all? It is called grounding folks (or if you want to be more PC about it - Family Game Night)
Having encountered/subdued a murderer, WHY DIDN'T YOU PHONE THE POLICE???(less)
Cover Impressions: This cover is fun. The colors work well, the font is cute and the ima...moreThis and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: This cover is fun. The colors work well, the font is cute and the image of the exhausted mom, sipping a latte and fiddling with her phone while hiding from the kids - is perfect for this title.
The Gist: Sh*tty Mom was written by four moms who are willing to concede that while their children may not grow up to be rocket scientists or president, they will damn well know how to get their own breakfast and turn the TV to cartoons so that mom can get an extra hour of sleep! It provides a tongue-in-cheek guide to the mom who wants to raise her kids with the least amount of effort possible.
Review: I don't normally read and review non-fiction or humor but, as a new mom, this title caught my eye and I had to give it a shot. Over the last year, I have been inundated with advice from moms who know it all (and some non-moms who know it all). I have gotten "the look" when I feed my baby store-bought food right out of the jar and felt out of place when my son is the only one at a party not wearing the latest teething necklace made from self-sustaining bamboo that I grew in my own back yard. The I-read-all-the-latest-articles-on-soothing-techniques-and-am-on-a-first-name-basis-with-5-pediatricians moms are all too vocal. However, the moms you never hear from are the ones who are willing to lock themselves in the bathroom to play Draw Something for 5 mins or count down the hours, minutes, seconds until bedtime. Those moms stay quiet because the Perfect Moms shame us into doing so. They judge us with their cloth diapers and all organic burp cloths. Well, in the interest of an honest review and to take a stand against the Perfect Moms, here are my Sh*tty Mom Confessions:
1) I let him watch TV- lots. I even put on the Little Einsteins DVDs when I really need him to bliss out in front of the boob tube. 2) I let him snack on cheerios - a lot. They are a major food group for him. 3) Cry-it-out is the only go to sleep technique that ever worked for us. 4) I only dress him in real clothes for pictures or if someone is coming over. Otherwise it is just a diaper or a sleeper (depending on the temp that day).
Sh*tty Mom must be taken with a large dose of humor (and perhaps an even larger dose of wine). It is NOT the book for a mom looking for sound advice on how to raise her little one. It IS the book for a frazzled mom who needs a little time out and, perhaps, some perspective. With chapter titles such as "How to Sleep In Until Nine AM Every Weekend" and "How to Drop Off Your Sick Kid at Daycare before the Teacher Figures It Out" it is clear that this book provides some serious humor and would go great with your copy of Go The Fuck To Sleep.
There were a few moments when I was a little put off by the humor. For example, in a section entitled "How to Leave Your baby in the Car While You Dash into a 7 Eleven" the authors discuss babies being locked in cars, pardoning the parents and blaming the child:
"The real problem here is that babies do not know when to cry. it would behoove them to learn. How is it that babies can scream through the night but when you're about to leave them in the hot car, not a peep? Do they even want to live? Why hasn't the evolutionary process hard-wired an 'I'M IN THE BACKSEAT' scream into all babies' DNA?"
This didn't come off as remotely funny for me and, had the section been seriously edited or removed entirely, it would have increased my enjoyment of the book immensely. After this point, I found myself constantly anticipating the next slip while reading and it set me on edge. Interestingly enough, a further chapter "Rediscover Your Passion for Violent TV, Movies, and Jokes" brings up exactly this point with the illustration of a new parents' inability to laugh at dead baby jokes. Those, I never found funny and perhaps that shows that my sense of humor was never crass enough to enjoy the passage above - kid or no kid.
Ignoring those sections, Sh*tty Mom is extremely funny. The writing is witty, and the layout marries short chapters with lists and notes of advice that make for a very quick read. It also cleverly buries moments of wisdom. For example, this is something that I wish I could tell the parents of all my students who sit in the middle of the pack:
"Average kids inherently understand that they don't have the goods. They develop other skills precisely because they can't get an A-plus on a paper that was begun the night before it was due. They grow into college students who can study for a test and into competent grown ups who can install a kitchen backsplash and use a slow cooker."
In the end, Sh*tty Mom does have a deeper purpose. The message of this book is not how to do the bare minimum and get away with it, ok well it is, but it goes deeper than that. It teaches us that if, at the end of the day, your kid didn't really have a balanced meal (cheerios count as a food group remember?), he didn't learn a new word (at least not one you want him to use in public) and he didn't have an enriching and educational outing that will surely set him on the path to school super-stardom. That's ok, because he is alive and (relatively) healthy. He will grow up just fine even if you don't celebrate every milestone (no first-poop-in-the-potty parties for you!) or sacrifice every moment of your time to his fulfillment. And hey, even if you are a Sh*tty Mom, at least you aren't a REALLY Sh*tty Mom!
On managing PDA time for your kids: "Imagine for a moment what it must be like to dole out coke to a cokehead. That's a cokehead that you can control. That's a cokehead who will brush his teeth the first time he's asked. Who will be quiet at a Starbucks and engrossed during the aforementioned seven-hour drive."
"People get annoyed if you stop at one child. They say you're selfish for not giving your kid a sibling, that your kid could turn out spoiled and awkward. These people are usually called 'grandparents.' Beware the grandparent!"
Cover Impressions: OOOOOOOHHHHHH PREEETTTYYYY! I really like this cover. The silhouette...moreThis and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: OOOOOOOHHHHHH PREEETTTYYYY! I really like this cover. The silhouette effect creates a sense of mystery and the font adds a fantastical charm. I cannot wait to see if/how this theme continues with the next book in the series.
The Gist: For as long as Kami Glass can remember she has heard a voice in her head. She has lost friendships and the other citizens of Sorry-in-the-Vale avoid her gaze but she has never been able to give up her imaginary friend. When the mysterious Lynburn family returns to town, Kami is faced with the realization that Jared is not so imaginary and that if their connection could be real, perhaps Sorry In the Vale might also hold more sinister secrets.
Review: Unspoken is based on a really interesting premise. Kami and Jared have been able to hear one another since birth, but have convinced themselves that the other was not real. When they finally discover each other, one might think that they would fall in the ultimate insta-love and proceed to sicken us with their every move. BUT Brennan would not do this to us. No, No, instead she wrote characters who recoiled at the thought of a real, physical person knowing their every intimate secret (who wouldn't?!). To complicate matters, Kami is investigating the return of the Lynburn family, whom the townspeople speak of with both awe and fear and the sudden violence that has erupted in Sorry-in-the-Vale.
The true strength of Unspoken lies in its characters. There are no one dimensional characters here. Each and every person, from Kami, to her friends, to her parents and brothers and the Lynburns, have unique and interesting qualities. My favorite has go to be Angela, Kami's outspoken best friend. She loathes nearly all people and covets a laziness that can only be matched by her brother, Rusty. Angela has a quick wit and says whatever is on her mind. This often leds to moments that have me literally laughing out loud such as:
"Angela spared a glare for Kami and then resumed her marathon glaring session at Jared. 'I'm not calling you that,' she announced flatly. 'It's too weird. I'm going to call you Carl.' Jared scowled. 'I don't want you to all me Carl.' 'That's interesting, Carl,' said Angela, cheering up."
I also had a special place in my heart for Holly, the girl who hit puberty a little too hard and found herself shunned by most of the girls her age. She is incredibly sweet and it is clear that she has tried to make friends with Kami and Angela for quite some time. Even she gets a few great lines:
"'Right,' said Holly, 'Well. If the unicorn is pink, about two feet tall, with a sparkly mane, we'll know my imaginary friend is real too.'"
Believe me, there are LOTS more examples of this fantastic dialogue, in fact, a number of quotes from Kami's dad can be found in the Notable Quotables section below. In fact, in writing this review and reading others I have seen quote after quote after quote and hardly any repeated. THAT is how good the dialogue is.
The plot of Unspoken moves smoothly as secrets are revealed and the danger heightens. The story was not bogged down with the typical insta-love and love triangle that could have happened if Brennan when the easy route. I did feel that Kami made some stupid decisions (creating a few "What, what, what are you doing? moments) and a few things could have been fleshed out further (such as the encounter with Henry Thornton) but overall, the action was exciting and suspenseful.
I feel I must discuss the ending. ABANDON HOPE OF NOT BEING SPOILED, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE: Kami's ultimate decision was unexpected in terms of the actions of most YA heroines, but was completely in line with who she is as a character. Jared's reaction surprised me and broke my heart a little. Endings like these are frustrating in that I feel unsatisfied. Secrets have been revealed, plots uncovered and bad guys identified, but nothing has been solved. That being said, it also accomplishes the author's purpose, which is to create in the reader a voracious longing for the next book!
Yes, yes, yes! to reading the next book the moment I can get my hands on it!
Age: 13 and up Gender: Both Sex: Kissing Violence: Knifeplay, ritual sacrifice, murder Inappropriate Language: Asshole, Hell Substance Use/Abuse: None
Note: There are TONS of awesome quotes from this book but I thought I would pick a few from Kami's dad because parents hardly ever get the great lines in YA.
"Kami, I know all the other kids are throwing themselves down wells right now, but your mother and I have a firm policy of no danger sports until you're eighteen."
"'Why are you putting on lip gloss, my daughter?' Dad asked. 'Trip to the library? Trip to the nunnery? I hear the nunneries are nice this time of year.'"
"'Wearing that? Wouldn't you fancy a shape-less cardigan instead? You rock a shapeless cardigan, honey.'"
Kami and Jared seemed to be able to block each other at times, so why doesn't Kami employ this strategy during awkward moments, such as when she is on a date with someone else?(less)
Cover Impressions: I really like the simplicity of this cover. The symbols are very fitt...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: I really like the simplicity of this cover. The symbols are very fitting and the color really makes it stand out on the shelf.
The Gist: Flavia de Luce is a remarkable 11 year old. She is fascinated by Chemistry, particularly poisons. With a dead bird on her doorstep and a dead body in her garden, Flavia endeavors to put her prodigious wealth of knowledge to the test and solve not one, but two murder mysteries.
Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie felt a little like an overly large piece of dessert, delicious and comforting for the first few forkfuls but sickly sweet after one bite too many. Flavia de Luce is overly precocious and more than a little too intelligent to be believable. her ability to wax poetically about any subject, from history to music to lock picking, made her feel much older than her 11 years and tended to distract from the plot. Her manner of speaking felt like it fit with a time period far removed from the 1950's and her level of freedom to roam the countryside without a word of caution from any adults was concerning. I enjoyed Flavia's quick wit and the tumultuous relationship with her sisters but failed to see even a spark of caring to balance out the ire between them.
The plot of this novel centered around two murder mysteries which were richly woven through time and included elements of illusion and sleight of hand. Ultimately however, the identity of the killer was a little too predictable and I would have preferred a nice plot twist. Secrets were often revealed through long winded speeches and details were repeated endlessly as Flavia mulled them over in her mind. There were moments when she was discovering a connection that I was certain she had actually made 10 or 15 pages earlier. The flashes of chemical knowledge that were of great interest to me as a Science teacher, became more and more complicated as the plot wore on. If my eyes were glazing over at these descriptions I can only imagine a person with little to no Scientific background would skim or abandon these sections altogether. The writing itself tended to be a little long winded and I found myself losing interest during several rambling sessions.
I do not believe that I will continue with this series. While I enjoyed the IDEA of Flavia de Luce, pint sized chemist and part time investigator, I could not connect with the way that the character was executed and I think my time might be better spent with other child wonders.
Age:15 and up (for reading level rather than content) Gender: Either Sex: None Violence: Death by poisoning, death by blunt force trauma, kidnapping. Inappropriate Language: Damn Substance Use/Abuse: Smoking Other Issues: Character describes having impersonated a stereotypical Asian man, included use of yellow face paint, pinning of eyes and racist accent.
"If there is a thing I truly despise, it is being addressed as 'dearie.' When I write my magnum opus, A Treatise Upon All Poisons, and come to 'Cyanide,' I am going to put under 'Uses' the phrase 'Particularly efficacious in the cure of those who call one 'Dearie'"(less)
Cover Impressions: The cover is pretty cool (pun intended). The eye color is stunning an...more This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes
Cover Impressions: The cover is pretty cool (pun intended). The eye color is stunning and commands attention and the frozen gaze is reminiscent of a dead body. The use of the earbuds/murder weapon to form the font was a really clever choice.
The Gist: In the midst of planning the confrontation and subsequent "murder" of her cheating boyfriend, Hartley Featherstone inadvertently stumbles upon a real dead body. Determined to prove her (ex) boyfriend's innocence, she enlists the help of her BFF and the local bad boy/editor of the school newspaper, Chase.
Review: Deadly Cool is a fun read. Harley Featherstone performs as a modern day Nancy Drew, attempting to solve a murder mystery and prove the innocence of her (ex) boyfriend. Harley is a great character, she is clever and witty with some truly fabulous lines: "'You're wicked fast.' he observed. 'Yeah. Dead bodies bring out the track star in me'". I did question a number of her decisions (like agreeing to help her cheating ass ex-boyfriend in the first place) and I felt that she needed a Sassy Gay Friend Intervention.
She constantly opens her mouth when she shouldn't, sneaks out of her house and puts herself into dangerous situations without a thought for her own safety. I found myself cringing, yelling "NO, YOU IDIOT" and imagining all of the security measures I would put on my house if she was my daughter!
That being said, Hartley does have a best friend (though not a sassy gay one) and she is awesome! I knew I loved Sam the minute I read this exchange when Hartley asked her to borrow her brother's car:
"'Because if I find Courtney Cline at Josh's and kill them both, I'm going to need a quick getaway.' Sam bit her lip, her eyebrows doing a concerned pucker on my behalf. But, good friend that she was, she finally said, 'Okay, but we need to think of a convincing alibi on the way.'"
Sam is the ultimate partner in crime. Willing to help Hartley with whatever crazy and dangerous investigative technique she has decided to try out next and bringing along her own clever quips to boot. The other characters didn't pop as much for me. Chase didn't show a whole lot of personality and the others (Josh, Goths, Cheerleaders, Color Guard) were all pretty stereotypical of their roles and didn't really hold any surprises.
The murder mystery plot involved some interesting twists and turns as Hartley conducted interviews, discovered clues and attended clandestine meetings with mysterious sources. The storyline moved quickly and didn't suffer from lag, though it did lose points at the end. I found the ultimate identity of the killer to be a little TOO convenient (I was hoping for a big plot twist) and did not enjoy the cliche "now that I have you tied up I will explain my plan and my every movement and then leave you to die so that you have lots of evidence when you eventually escape virtually unscathed".
Had there been an unexpected twist at the end, this book would easily have earned a 4 rating. As it is, it sits at a 3 for me because it had a few fun characters, some great lines and was a fun, easy and enjoyable read. I am sure that I will read the sequel eventually, but I didn't love this one enough to want to dive right back into Hartley's world - at least not for a few days, anyway. Here's hoping that in between Hartley watches every episode of Veronica Mars and adopts a big dog named Backup.
Age: 13 and up Gender: Female Sex: Discussed, not described Violence: Death by strangulation, death by blunt force trauma, attempted murder by fire. Inappropriate Language: The characters tend to censor themselves ("'We're censoring now?' 'Kyle says I have a mouth like a trucker.'") so they use Effing quite a bit. Jesus, Damn, Slut Substance Use/Abuse: Smoking
- Does their cafeteria ONLY serve pizza sticks? (less)
Cover Impressions: I will be honest, the cover didn't wow me. It was the title and synopsis that got me interested. Perhaps it looks different on the...moreCover Impressions: I will be honest, the cover didn't wow me. It was the title and synopsis that got me interested. Perhaps it looks different on the physical copy, or perhaps there is some symbolism behind the cover image that I missed. Either way - do not judge this one by it's cover!
The Gist: Valerie wanted to throw a fun party and maybe flirt with her crush. She didn't know that within 24 hrs she would be labeled as The Rape Girl and that she would lose her friends, her reputation and her sense of self.
Review: Rape Girl is one of those rare books that wraps it's tendrils around my heart and refuses to let go. I read it in pretty much one sitting, over a few hours and am still left with an overwhelming need to re-examine and discuss it. I want to make my friends read it, I want to bombard the author with my questions and, more than any of those, I want to get multiple copies for my classroom.
The first few chapters of this book are divided into Before and After. This is incredibly effective and reflects the way that many victims will always structure their memories. While we follow Valerie's rape and the aftermath, we do not get the graphic descriptions that can be common in other books on this subject and this allows it to maintain appropriateness for teens. Throughout this novel, we are privy to Valerie's inner thoughts and feelings as her friends desert her and her family struggles to deal with their own sense of guilt. The pain from each of these people is palpable and poignant.
The actions on the part of Valerie, her mother, best friend and even her rapist feel incredibly realistic. At one point, we hear from this young man and my stomach turned to ice simply reading his justifications for his crimes, knowing that a person with this deluded sense of entitlement as a man will most certainly assault another woman. While his words are chilling, they seem typical of a person who has convinced himself that he has done nothing wrong. I was also seriously disturbed at the actions of the principal. As a teacher, the thought that a man in that position could so blatantly side with the perpetrator of a rape makes me ill.
Rape Girl has easily made my list of top books for 2012 and is one that I highly recommend to both teens and adults.
Age: 13 and up Gender: Female Sex: Kissing, Talk of Sex Violence: Rape - No Graphic Descriptions Inappropriate Language: Bitch, Fuck, Ho, Dildo, Ass, Whore, Shit, Bastard Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking (less)