The hammering on the door shot him into wakefulness like a handgun going off in his face.
That first line sent me to the Internet to learn whether haThe hammering on the door shot him into wakefulness like a handgun going off in his face.
That first line sent me to the Internet to learn whether handguns were common in mid-fifteenth century Rome before I could really concentrate on the rest of the book. Sadly, the rest of the book wasn't all that engaging, anyway. The perspective shifts between the two main characters from chapter to chapter, but I don't think that accounts for the unevenness of the third-person narration. The plot drags, and I was left with serious doubts about the possibility of (at least) one particular twist. ...more
Middle-schooler Roxanne spends her days watching television reruns with her sister, mooning over the boy down the street, and dreading gym class. HerMiddle-schooler Roxanne spends her days watching television reruns with her sister, mooning over the boy down the street, and dreading gym class. Her father works long hours as a taxi driver, and her mother is on an extended visit to Israel to care for a family member. Although Roxanne was born in Israel, she wants more than anything to be "all-American". It takes some important lessons from her new neighbor, Liat, to teach her how to be herself. This is a sweet coming of age tale that has a strong feeling of autobiography to it. Roxanne's desire to be "American" in every way is mentioned repeatedly throughout the novel, well past what would be necessary to let the reader know about it, but the writing is solid overall. Despite an intriguing suggestion of doom for Liat in the beginning, there is very little tension (or action) in the novel. A nice, if slightly dull, slice of 1980s life. ...more
High school student Hayley lives in Santa Monica, minutes from the beach, surrounded by the rich and beautiful of Southern California. But an extra 30High school student Hayley lives in Santa Monica, minutes from the beach, surrounded by the rich and beautiful of Southern California. But an extra 30 pounds keeps her out a bikini and keeps her mother dragging her to meetings of "Waist Watchers" and confiscating her mini chocolate bars. To make matters worse, the boy she's had a crush on all year turns out to like her best friend. Suddenly, Hayley's parents announce that they are sending her to Italy for the summer. In the picture-perfect Umbrian countryside, her entire life changes. She starts getting exercise and enjoying reasonable amounts of good food, and she meets a great Italian guy. It's a nice story, but the one-note characters and wish-fulfillment plot remind me of holiday chocolates: sweet, but hollow....more
Marcelo Sandoval is 17 years old. He has been attending a special school due to an unspecified disability that seems to be something like Asperger SynMarcelo Sandoval is 17 years old. He has been attending a special school due to an unspecified disability that seems to be something like Asperger Syndrome. His plans to spend the summer before his senior year of high school training ponies to work with disabled children are suddenly upended by his father, who wants him to work "in the real world" for the summer - specifically, as a law firm mailroom clerk. Marcelo is an interesting character, but his voice is inconsistent, and the ambiguity of his disorder reads as a way for the author to avoid being constrained by the characteristics of an actual diagnosed condition. Marcelo's parents are often given peculiar-sounding dialog, contributing to the uneven voice.
While this book is being marketed as a YA title, it feels more like adult literary fiction. The mild mystery and romance elements are nearly lost in the narrative. Pages of beautifully crafted prose are suddenly interrupted by clunky phrases. Overall, a promising concept that falls flat in the execution. Disappointing....more
The second installment of Collins' trilogy picks up roughly six months after Hunger Games left off. Back in District 12, but in new houses and with plThe second installment of Collins' trilogy picks up roughly six months after Hunger Games left off. Back in District 12, but in new houses and with plenty of money and food, Katniss and Peeta are preparing for the mandatory Victory Tour of Panem. But despite the attempts of the Capitol to keep the Districts under strict control, rebellion is beginning to stir, and Katniss finds herself the unwitting face of the revolution. Katniss is more focused on her internal state than on action, and she - and the narrative - feel weaker than in the first book. Events occasionally strain the reader's ability to suspend disbelief, and explanations are rushed. Still, it's a solid combination of suspense and science fiction that will have readers waiting eagerly for the next volume....more
Five years after his famous voyage on the Beagle, Charles Darwin had a decision to make: remain a bachelor, or find a wife. Heiligman begins her studyFive years after his famous voyage on the Beagle, Charles Darwin had a decision to make: remain a bachelor, or find a wife. Heiligman begins her study of the Darwin family with the list (a photograph of which is included) of pros and cons that lead him to the conclusion, "Marry - Marry - Marry". She recounts his courtship of his cousin, Emma Wedgwood, their marriage, the births of their ten children (and the deaths of three), and other events in their lives while Darwin was writing his famous books. It's an intimate look at Victorian family life and a fascinating tale of opposites attracting: agnostic Charles and spiritual Emma provide an inspirational model of respect and cooperation. The narration occasionally drags as Heiligman packs in details and revisits events from earlier in the Darwins' lives, but the family's charms make this a compelling read. ...more
Sixteen-year-old Cody Laredo seems to be doing okay. He's passing all his classes, he's the QB for the football team, he's got a gorgeous girlfriend,Sixteen-year-old Cody Laredo seems to be doing okay. He's passing all his classes, he's the QB for the football team, he's got a gorgeous girlfriend, and he's lined up a good-paying job for the summer. He knows college scouts will be looking at him in the fall, offering a way out of Little Bend, CO, and the tiny apartment he shares with his widowed father. Even when Clea - his girlfriend - is abruptly shipped off to Hong Kong for the summer by her wealthy parents, everything looks like it will work out.
Then comes Autumn. Clea's father sends her to boarding school in Vermont, and Cody tears his ACL in the very first game of the season, ending his football career. He's just settling down to his few local prospects when he learns that Clea has disappeared. He decides to join the search, and then things get really interesting.
With this absorbing suspense story squarely targeted at a teen-age audience, Abrahams draws readers into Cody's world. While Cody clearly isn't stupid, he doesn't think of himself as bright, which allows Abrahams to provide pretty big clues in a way that feels completely natural. Cody's determination and simple love for Clea make him a likeable hero. Readers will be rooting for him all the way to the last page....more
Haly has spent her entire life in the Libyrinth, a maze of books tended by the dedicated Libyrarians. While those around her are dedicated to the presHaly has spent her entire life in the Libyrinth, a maze of books tended by the dedicated Libyrarians. While those around her are dedicated to the preservation of knowledge and the written word, Haly has one special distinction: she can hear the books speak their texts. This talent brings her to the attention of the Eradicants, who believe that written words are "dead" and must be "liberated" by burning.
Adventure and suspense blend with science fiction as Haly and her friends set out on a mission to save the Labyrinth from ultimate destruction. North's future world is believable and most of her characters well-developed, and the story is engaging enough to overcome some pacing problems as necessary background information is revealed to the reader. The conclusion is satisfying while leaving enough open questions to draw the reader to the upcoming second volume of a planned trilogy....more
I kind of wish I hadn't read the jacket flap on this one, since it gives away THE ENTIRE PLOT. Sheesh.
This is the third book set in Pfeffer's versionI kind of wish I hadn't read the jacket flap on this one, since it gives away THE ENTIRE PLOT. Sheesh.
This is the third book set in Pfeffer's version of the future United States, after an asteroid knocks the moon into a lower orbit, causing all kinds of disasters down on Earth. Both the Evans and Morales families appear in this volume, as their paths finally cross.
Miranda is refreshingly believable as a teen trying to survive in this post-apocalyptic scenario. She reflects on big issues and tiny ones in her journal; the line "I'd been thinking, too, about nail polish. But I knew better than to mention it" (20) made me laugh out loud. After The Dead and the Gone, the reader knows more about Alex Morales' history than Miranda does, adding an interesting angle on her observations.
With the increased number of significant characters in this volume, it seems inevitable that a few will be a bit neglected, but Syl is particularly flat. Maybe we'll get a future installment from her point of view....more
Sweet has secrets. She's left home, living in a cabin in the woods with a young man named Curtis, who has secrets of his own. In short, beautifully-wrSweet has secrets. She's left home, living in a cabin in the woods with a young man named Curtis, who has secrets of his own. In short, beautifully-written chapters, we get glimpses of love, friendship, and growing up. A lovely little book....more
The combination of natural disaster and class conflict made this a promising title, but the use of free verse and multiple perspectives left me cold rThe combination of natural disaster and class conflict made this a promising title, but the use of free verse and multiple perspectives left me cold rather than drawing me in....more
The daughter of a midwife, 16-year-old Gaia has just moved from apprenticeship into becoming a full-fledged midwife herself. As she takes the newbornThe daughter of a midwife, 16-year-old Gaia has just moved from apprenticeship into becoming a full-fledged midwife herself. As she takes the newborn baby girl from her distraught mother, though, it is immediately clear that all is not well in Gaia's world.
There are strong echoes of the dystopian societies of The Giver and The Hunger Games in O'Brien's world. The strong female lead character and immediate mysteries draw the reader in, but those mysteries quickly become muddled rather than solved, and Gaia is a little too naive to be believable after a while. Uneven pacing drags the book down, especially when O'Brien starts explaining her own symbolism:
When Winston led them next up a staircase, a practical, boxy one with narrow treads, Gaia had the impression the Bastion had two distinct functions: the beautiful, gracious home that Genevieve and the children inhabited, and the no-nonsense part that she was entering as a bound prisoner. In a way, it's only a more extreme version of the society I already live in, Gaia thought, another division, like the one that separates those who live inside and outside the wall. She had just seen where the worlds collided.