This book had everything going for it for me to love it. Great trailer, beautiful cover, interesting summary, lots of great reviews from students andThis book had everything going for it for me to love it. Great trailer, beautiful cover, interesting summary, lots of great reviews from students and teachers, AND it's a dystopia, which is my favorite. I had my eye on it long before the publication release date and was really excited to sink my teeth in.
I just wasn't "feeling" this one. The relationship between Ky and Cassia was unconvincing; I felt like it would have been more realistic had she chosen Xander. The characters were boring, the romances lukewarm, and the society very been-there-done-that. There was very little action, no "raging" at all, just a lot of thinking and talking. I kept waiting for something to happen, but it just never did.
OVERALL RATING: Neutral opinion; not really my thing
WHAT I LIKED: First of all, I have to say that Neal Shusterman is already a YA legend. The author of over 30 YA books, Shusterman's novels never cease to be edgy, unique, and crazy-creative. He has written so many different books of vastly different genres and storylines that I can't imagine how there is room in one brain for all that.
Okay, so yeah, I'm a fan. When I sat down to read Bruiser, I had high expectations right from the start. I love when different characters tell the story from their own perspectives, and four different characters narrate Bruiser at various points in the story. Each character has his/her own voice, and Shusterman does this so well that I can tell who is speaking without the person's name at the beginning of each section. I especially love Brewster's voice, which is appropriately poetic.
I love how Bruiser, Tennyson, and Bronte's chapter titles are SAT-ish vocabulary words. Seventy-five cent words, as my former English teacher used to call them. Humorously off-setting this are 8-year old Cody's more simple chapters, all of which are titled "Stuff." Awesome.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: I think I fell victim to my own high expectations on this one. I know several people who have praised Bruiser big-time. Goodreads ratings are well into the 4s, which means lots of people love this book. I just wasn't feeling this one. Realistic fiction is not my favorite genre to begin with, but Bruiser could also be classified as paranormal (which I love). The story is a little quiet at times; lots of thinking and reflecting going on in the story. While I love Cody's voice and character, Tennyson's self-centered-ness and Bronte's whiny, Little Miss Perfect-ness really got under my skin at times.
Too much thinking and talking; too little action. At only 300+ pages, it was too long and slow for me.
Language: none Sexuality: some chaste kissing Violence: medium; physical abuse of a child (described) Drugs/Alcohol: adult characters drink, one drinks excessively
READALIKES: The Dark Days of Hamburger Halprin (Berk); Gifted (Evangelista); Playing with Fire (Prue)
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have it, and it is on the 2011-2012 Lone Star list. Books on this list are extremely popular due to a program we run in our district, and Bruiser has already been a popular choice. Fans of Unwind (and we have tons of them) are especially eager to read Bruiser. ...more
WHAT I LIKED: As a daughter of the 80's, I grew up obsessed with the movie Splash, which tells the story of a beautiful mermaid in love with a human bachelor in New York. So, Forgive My Fins already had the mermaid-Splash-thing going for it before I even started reading.
I stayed up until 4am last night reading Forgive My Fins, reading almost all of it in one sitting. I started reading around 10pm, fully intending to read for 30 minutes or so before I went to bed. I had to get up at 5am after all. Yeah, I ended up skipping the summer staff development class I was supposed to attend today because of this book. It was that good.
The story is very easy to get into, and the major characters easy to like. I found myself really rooting for Quince and Lily, right from the very beginning. I love the cursing--it's all fish terms like "frogging" instead of "frigging" (or worse) and "carp" instead of "crap." Very creative. While some fishy dialogue seemed a little cheesy initially, it was endearing and sweet and cute and I liked it anyway.
I'm glad that Lily admits that living on land makes her more irritable. Without that explanation, I would have thought she was too hot-headed. She is always so angry with Quince, and it is so obvious from the very beginning that he's only pestering her because he likes her. Knowing irritability is a side-effect of land-living really keeps Lily's character sympathetic.
Without giving too much away, I felt so emotionally connected to the characters that a particular part at the end left me completely heartbroken when it happened. It was a hand-over-my-mouth moment. So sad.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The only thing I didn't love was the Epilogue. It kind of comes out of nowhere and seems only tangentially related to the book. Oh, well; it sets up the sequel, I guess. And I have no doubt I'll be reading the sequel.
Also, my advice is to NOT start this book if you don't have time to finish it in one sitting. I do not recommend missing staff development (or work or school) so you can stay up to finish it.
Language: very mild (it's all fishy-cursing); one GD Sexuality: mild; some kissing Violence: none Drugs/Alcohol: very mild; Lily takes an aspirin for a headache
SEQUEL: Fins Are Forever
READALIKES: Aquamarine (Hoffman); Hannah (Lasky); The Deep (Dunmore); Ingo (Dunmore)
STATUS IN MY MS LIBRARY (GRADES 6-8): We have six copies; it's popular and is on the current year's Lone Star Plus list. Now that I have read it and loved it, I probably won't have to worry about shelving it much because it will be on constant hold. ...more
SUMMARY: Alex Van Helsing is not your typical 14-year old boy; as the great-great-great grandson of Abraham Van Helsing, who killed Dracula centuries ago, Alex is destined to follow the family legacy as a vampire hunter. When a powerful vampire kidnaps two of his friends, Alex must venture into Scholomance, a hidden vampire school, to get them back.
WHAT I LIKED: What is it about Lord Bryon? Vampire Rising is the second book I've read IN A ROW that features Lord Byron (yes THAT Lord Byron) as an immortal vampire interacting with modern-day teenagers. What are the odds? (The other book was Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins.)
What The DaVinci Code does for The Last Supper, Vampire Rising does for Frankenstein and Dracula. While studying Frankenstein in college, I heard the story of the night that Mary Shelley and her friends (including Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron) sat around one night making up ghost stories. Henderson uses this introduction to Frankenstein as a basis for the story of how Dracula slayer Abraham Van Helsing's great-great-great grandson continues the vampire-hunting legacy. I kept wondering where the lines of history and fantasy meet--what is true and what is fabricated? Really, such a cool concept.
With all his contact-lens trouble, bully woes, and unintended troubles in school, Alex Van Helsing is a character that many young readers will relate to. Uninformed about his family's vampire-hunting legacy, Alex must figure out this vampire stuff right along with the reader. Bullies Merrill & Merrill get progressively worse, and young readers who are encountering the same problem will identify with Alex's attempts to avoid them. And can I just say, thank you, thank you, thank you to Jason Henderson for making a literature teacher a motorcycle-riding, kick-ass vampire slayer. You have just upped the cool factor of book nerds everywhere.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Action-packed with plenty of fighting scenes, Vampire Rising will appeal to boys easily, but I think girls will be a little harder to sell. It's refreshing to read about bloodthirsty, non-sparkly vampires, but many of my girls still want steamy vampire romances. Also, what Vampire Rising has in its action scenes, it lacks in character development. Readers know virtually nothing about Sangster, Sid, Paul, and Minho. The sequel Voice of the Undead was just released this week, so maybe these characters will gain some personality in the next book.
Violence: medium; lots of vampire fighting scenes; vampires drinking blood
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have it, and since it is on the Texas Lone Star list for 2011-2012, it will be popular in the library this school year. ...more
REVIEW: The massive praise for Cinder is well-deserved. The story of a cyborg Cinderella is certainly unique, and, as More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: The massive praise for Cinder is well-deserved. The story of a cyborg Cinderella is certainly unique, and, aside from one predictable "surprise", Cinder kept me guessing. I loved Cinder's character because though her identity and past are a mystery, Cinder knows who she is as a person. She knows she's a cyborg, a second-class citizen. She knows Prince Kai would never look her way if he knew her cyborg status. But among all the humans in the story, Cinder is among the most humane, the one who cares about the suffering of others more than her own. Cinder is smart and determined and loyal, and I loved her all the way through.
I will say I am not as crazy about this book as many of the other reviewers I've seen. I liked it very much, but I'm just not gushing over it. It's crazy unique, but it took me a little time to get into. I wasn't as compelled to read it as I have been with Rossi's Under the Never Sky or Bracken's The Darkest Minds. This one was kind of like Roth's Divergent for me; I liked it very well, but I didn't go nuts over it. I found the big reveal to be extremely obvious (was it supposed to be a surprise?), and I am usually not that great at predicting the twist.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Definitely read it. It's one of the most unique and creative stories I've read recently, and it deserves a spot among the year's best.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have one copy that is ALWAYS checked out, so I will be buying more from our book fair next week. When we received the sequel Scarlet last week, we had several put it on hold. While I think boys would like it just as much, the girls are the main ones checking it out.
REVIEW: As a librarian, I get book recommendations from students and teachers all the time. I really do try to YA reviews and more at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: As a librarian, I get book recommendations from students and teachers all the time. I really do try to read at least some of them, especially if the recommendation comes from a student whose taste in books is similar to mine. A few weeks ago, a sweet sixth grade girl recommended Sweet Venom to me, saying she really, really loved it. A big Tera Lynn Childs fan, I'd been wanting to read SV for awhile anyway, and my girl's recommendation gave me the push I needed.
I really liked this one! I tend to enjoy mythology-influenced stories anyway, and Childs's Forgive My Fins was one of my favorite books on the 2011-2012 Lone Star Reading List. While for me, Sweet Venom lacked the charm of Forgive My Fins, I found it mostly well-paced with a gruesome cast of mythological monsters and a fun premise.
I liked the triplet characters of Gretchen, Grace, and Greer, but I do think the three girls' alternating voices were not distinctive enough. If I stopped reading mid-chapter, I would sometimes have to read a several paragraphs before I could tell which girl's story I was reading. Greer, Grace, and Gretchen are very different characters, and I wish their "voices" were more unique to them.
The book is well-paced for the most part, but the story really picks up once the third triplet, Greer, is introduced. Greer is hands-down my favorite character, and her inclusion adds an element of sibling-rivalry that I did not expect. Being the oldest in a sisterly trio myself, I enjoyed reading how the girls find each other and learn to get along.
I was a little disappointed in the male characters in the story--they are all pretty standard stock. Cute, popular, outgoing, yada yada. I am hoping they develop more fully in the sequel Sweet Shadows. I think the romance is a big part of what I loved about Forgive My Fins and missed in Sweet Venom. Romance is there, but it takes a back-seat to the sisters' story.
Overall, Sweet Venom is a fun read that will appeal to middle school girls big-time. Book talking it in my library will be a breeze (even without a good book trailer at this time), and I have decided to include it on my 2012-2013 Lone Star Plus list for my school. My ARC of Sweet Shadows (due out in September) taunts me at this very minute...
THE BOTTOM LINE: Romance takes a backseat in this cute story of three sisters battling mythological beasts. Perfect for middle school girls!
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We currently have two copies of Sweet Venom in my library, which I am going to add to next year's Lone Star Plus list for my school.
READALIKES:Oh. My. Gods. (Childs); any of the Rick Riordan mythology books; Forgive My Fins (Childs)
Appeal to teens: 5/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Sexuality: very mild--one girl's boyfriend alludes to "staying overnight," but it does not happen and is not a big deal
Violence: mild-medium--some non-scary mythological monster attacks; the three sisters have retractable fangs
Drugs/Alcohol: very mild--a few references to one sister's previous foster parents, both violent drug/alcohol abusers
WHAT I LIKED: Brace yourselves because I'm gonna say it...(deep breath)...I liked Blood Red Road even better than The Hunger Games. GASP! Who thought it would be possible? HG is my favorite YA book Of. All. Time. In the three years since I read it, nothing has even come close touching the greatness of HG. Wow.
So what did I like about it? For starters, I was gripped right from the first couple of pages; I could have easily swallowed it in one sitting if it weren't for the need to work, take care of my kids, do laundry. The action never stops, and there are enough plot threads to keep readers interested. To those boys in my library who only read a book when they are forced to, who aren't completely sold on reading anything, I have two words: Cage Fighting. WOW.
Second, the mystery of the setting itself is a huge part of the story. I am assuming the story takes place in the U.S., possibly in the desert Southwest, but who knows? It really could be anywhere considering the distant-future setting. How did the world get this way, and when did everyone become so barbaric? It's clearly very far into the future. Books are virtually nonexistent; Saba does not even recognize a book when she sees one, calling it a "leaf with squiggly lines." Characters clamor for items from the distant past; old tires, sheet metal, and other forms of junk from our current civilization (interestingly named the "Wreckers") are considered valuable and somewhat rare artifacts that people use as barter.
The simple, slang-infused writing style takes a couple of pages to get used to, but it really adds to the story. Books no longer exist, and none of the school-age characters attend school. Basic technology including telephones, computers, and television sets are also completely absent. Without written communication, it is easy to see how spoken language would quickly deteriorate.
Though the story is somewhat resolved at the end, Young leaves several loose ends open for a second installment. With multiple engaging characters and utterly unique world-building, the story could go many different directions and be told from several different viewpoints. Wouldn't it be interesting if the sequel were from Emmi's point of view, maybe seven or eight years later? Hmmm...
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Not one thing. As close to a perfect piece of YA fiction as I've ever read.
THE BOTTOM LINE: With fast-paced with engaging characters and unique world-building, Blood Red Road is sure to be a hit with fans of The Hunger Games. I have little doubt that this one will be a movie within the next few years; Blood Red Road will resonate with readers and get people talking. I can't recommend this book highly enough....more
REVIEW: Unique and action-packed! I enjoyed Rot & Ruin thoroughly, and my students have been ch More reviews and library ideas at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: Unique and action-packed! I enjoyed Rot & Ruin thoroughly, and my students have been checking it out like crazy. We currently have seven copies, and all are checked out. We also have seven holds for it, so I have ordered four more from Scholastic. Zombies are huge right now (can I say "I told you so"?), and at least for me, there just isn't enough zombie lore out there right now for middle school audiences. The inclusion of Rot & Ruin on the Texas Lone Star Reading List could not be more timely.
The story has plenty of action, gore, and even a little romance. I love how Maberry incorporates sympathy for the witless, bite-obsessed zombies. Though they will try their best to kill you, they are not the bad guys.
Personal relationships and character growth are driving forces in Rot & Ruin. Maberry takes his time developing Benny's character from an ignorant, spoiled child to a thoughtful, mature young man. I always love stories featuring complex, realistic sibling relationships, and this one fits that bill nicely. As for the girls, Nix and Lilah are not your typical teen queens. Survivors by design, both girls kick butt and never back down or let their fear get the best of them. The conflict Benny experiences between the two girls will be interesting to watch in Dust & Decay and Flesh & Bone.
If I had any complaints, I would say Rot & Ruin is a little slow at times, and readers will need to be patient with the storyline occasionally. To those readers, I would also say that those slower points are very necessary to plot development. Crafting such a unique world with extraordinarily developed characters takes time. Also, it is a zombie book, so gore comes with the territory. If gore bothers you, I doubt you'd be reading a zombie book anyway, right?
THE BOTTOM LINE: If you like post-apocalyptic books that take their time developing character and world-building, you'll love Rot & Ruin. With plenty of zombie-gore and murder, it's definitely not for the squeamish.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have seven copies, all checked out. Seven holds at present, and four more copies on-order. I have three copies of Dust & Decay, all checked out as well. Flesh and Bone just came out, and we have three copies on-order. I guess you could say it's POPULAR!
READALIKES:The Enemy (Higson); Ashes (Bick); The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Ryan); Strange Angels (St. Crow)
Appeal to teens: 5/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 4/5
Language: mild-medium; some language is lightly-sprinkled throughout (no F--- or Sh-- that I remember)
Sexuality: mild; some kissing, the drawing of The Lost Girl Chase Card shows her sporting very large breasts and ripped clothing
Violence: very high--plenty of murder, gore
REVIEW: As a kind of Pride and Prejudice for teen readers, Keeping the Castle is a cute, fun romance that I really en More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: As a kind of Pride and Prejudice for teen readers, Keeping the Castle is a cute, fun romance that I really enjoyed. Althea's exploits to win Lord Boring's heart were endlessly entertaining and at times, quite hilarious. I loved all the characters and felt especially sorry for poor Lord Boring, who seemed to have no clue just how important he is to the desperate women of Lesser Hoo. I love Miss Vincy's unconventionally independent spirit and Prudence and Charity's vain selfishness. Though he lacks the social mores of his time, Mr. Fredericks is especially endearing. I love the slow-building friendship between Fredericks and Althea. Very nice.
My only complaint with Keeping the Castle is the way it is written. While the writing style is elegant, beautiful, and fits the historical period, I fear that it may turn off some teen/tween readers who have had little exposure to the language of the Victorian period. Then again, I suppose Keeping the Castle will give them their first opportunity to try it out!
THE BOTTOM LINE: Cute, fun, entertaining. It's a great choice for the 2013 Lone Star Reading List.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. Maybe not for every student, but I'll be recommending it frequently.
WHAT I LIKED: Strong girl friendships take center-stage in this cute story about three friends navigating cliques, un More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
WHAT I LIKED: Strong girl friendships take center-stage in this cute story about three friends navigating cliques, unfair teachers, budding romances, and high school politics. I especially loved Gigi's character; she stands up for herself and doesn't worry about what everyone else does or thinks. The girls' friendship endures many tests, but the three friends find strength in themselves and each other when times get tough. While they don't always make the best decisions concerning one another, they also sacrifice themselves at times for the sake of their friends. The story has a strong message that while boys may come and go, strong friendships will survive.
I also love the theme of not judging people before you know them. Gigi believes that everyone prejudges her as being a smart, geeky girl. By the end of the story, however, she realizes that she is judging others just as much. She stereotypes Sienna as a brainless cheerleader, Mike as a stupid jock, Will as a cute, sensitive California surfer, and Ava as a fickle friend. As she gets to know them better, Gigi learns that there is much more to the people she only barely knows.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Early in the story, I considered abandoning this one. In the beginning, it reads more like a "slice of life" story than one with a defined plot. The girls talk, giggle, go to school. Gigi gets into trouble (totally unfair, that). They hang out at a cemetery. I didn't think I would EVER get into the story, even after about 130 pages. The only reason I really kept reading is that I was mildly interested in how events with Gigi and Mike would play out. Eventually, I did get into the story and finished the last 100 or so pages in one sitting. If you are reading it right now or are considering reading it soon, know that it does pick up eventually.
The romances are predictable, but I enjoyed them anyway (especially all the banter between Gigi and Mike). The slow build-up to that first, sweet kiss is one of my favorite things about reading middle school chick lit.
THE BOTTOM LINE:Smart Girls is a 2013-2014 Lone Star Reading List pick, and I think it is a good one. A great choice for middle school girls looking for books about friends, school, and a little bit of romance.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have it. It's a Lone Star for 2013-2014 school year, so I expect it to be pretty popular with my girls next year.