Gilda Joyce lives a life of glamour and intrigue in Detroit, Michigan. At least she imagines she does. As a self-described "psychic investigator," Gilda strives to use her natural abilities to solve mysteries of the paranormal, among her many other projects. When her eight-grade year ends, Gilda is worried her summer won't be as exciting as she'd hoped after her best friend goes away to camp. Determined to have an adventure, Gilda contacts a distant relative, Mr. Splinter, in San Francisco and invites herself to stay for the summer. After a mis-communication with Mr. Splinter's ditzy assistant, Gilda is actually asked to come keep Mr. Splinter's daughter, Juliet, company over the summer. Gilda arrives in San Francisco and soon discovers that the Splinters are living in a house haunted by the ghost of Mr. Splinter's sister, Melanie, who committed suicide years before. Gilda and Juliet become friends, and are determined to solve the mystery of Melanie's death. What will Gilda's psychic investigations uncover?
This fun and clever novel not only delivers an entertaining and sometimes spooky storyline, but also a message that won't be lost on young readers. Gilda Joyce makes for an interesting and somewhat complex heroine. She is confident, blunt and clever, but there is a layer of sadness over the death of her father two years earlier. Throughout Gilda's bumbling psychic investigating, it's clear that she is using the mysteries as a means of working through his death. Juliet, Mr. Splinter's anti-social, sickly daughter, is also an interesting character for young readers. At the outset of the novel, Juliet is contemplating suicide, and she is obviously wrestling with some inner turmoil of her own. The relationship between Gilda, Juliet and Mr. Splinter is very interesting, and is reminiscent of Mary, Colin and Mr. Craven in Burnett's The Secret Garden. Gilda's adventures are merely a vehicle for what is actually a very relevant and touching story about families, communication and friendship.
I was surprised by how engrossing I found this novel. I was immediately aware of the underlying elements of the story, Gilda's sadness over her father's death, her strained family situation with her overworked mother and distant brother, and the coldness between Mr. Splinter and Juliet. The family relationships were quite heartbreaking at times. Allison does a wonderful job, however, of lightening the mood with Gilda's antics. Gilda is a very likable heroine and the mystery she and Juliet solve is actually quite interesting. I found myself feeling "creeped out" at times from the antics of the ghost of Aunt Melanie. Overall, this is a very enjoyable novel both for adults and tweens.
After Leah Green is tragically killed, Laine reflects on their relationship as she tries to come to terms with the death. Leah and Lainey have been friends since they were little. As they were growing up they did everything together: had sleepovers, told secrets, played with dolls. But something was different about their friendship. Leah has a troubled past and was sexually abusive to Lainey, telling her that what they did was just practice for when they got older and began to date boys. Lainey was confused by her friend's actions. Leah's charisma and popularity made it hard for Lainey to question anything her friend says or does, but she knew that what they do in the "doll closet" was wrong. She felt dirty and guilty. As they grew up, Lainey struggled as Leah began to drift away, making new friends and becoming increasingly popular at school. Lainey is confused, and is constantly haunted by Leah's past actions and taunting. At every turn, Lainey can hear Leah's voice inside her head, reminding her that she liked what they did together. As Lainey thinks about her troubled friend's life, will she be able to forgive her?
Lessons from a Dead Girl is a truly haunting and heartbreaking story about abuse, friendship and forgiveness. The novel opens with the death of Leah Greene, and the rest of the story is broken up into chapters named with a lesson Lainey learned from her friend. As more and more about Leah and Lainey's friendship is revealed, the truth about the abuse subjected upon Lainey at the hands of a peer becomes clear. Sexual abuse between friends, siblings, or children who are close in age is not something that is talked about as frequently as between an adult and a child. As the reader learns about Leah's actions, it's obvious that Leah herself has been sexually abused (it is later revealed that a family friend, Sam, is the person responsible for victimizing Leah.) This type of abuse has been presented in previous teen literature, but few novels have touched upon sexual abuse between friends in quite the same as Knowles does in Lessons from a Dead Girl. The novel itself is very well-written, but extremely difficult to read due to the subject matter. Teen and adult readers alike will find themselves sickened by Leah's treatment of the innocent and trusting Lainey, as well as by the abuse Leah must have suffered herself. And while Leah is somewhat of an antagonist, her death is truly tragic despite the fact that Lainey is now free from her abuse. The story will raise many questions in the reader's mind about Lainey's struggles: What could she have done to help her friend? Is there any grace in Leah's tragic death since she was clearly very troubled? Will Lainey ever be able to truly forgive Leah? Thoughts like these will remain in the reader's mind long after the book has been completed. An excellent but heartbreaking read for teens.
This was a very difficult book to read due to the subject matter, but also very well written. Knowles tackles some really tough issues about sexual abuse, friendship and loss. I would recommend it, but only with a warning that it's not in any way light or fluffy.
Junior in high school, Lara Ardeche, has the perfect life. Beautiful, popular and thin, Lara has spent her life competing in and winning beauty pageants. Her beautiful, thin mother and handsome father adore her, as does her cool boyfriend Jett and her best friend, Molly. Lara's life becomes even better when she is elected homecoming queen, despite the fact that she's just a junior. In the months following her homecoming victory, however, Lara's life becomes a living hell as she inexplicably begins to gain weight very rapidly. As she grows bigger and bigger, her popular friends abandon her, and Lara tries everything to get back to her former thin self. Matters are only worsened by her "perfect" parents who constantly pressure her to diet. After rigorous medical testing, Lara finally discovers that a rare metabolic disorder is the cause of her weight gain, a disorder for which there is no cure. As Lara's life continues to fall apart, she discovers that perhaps things were not as perfect as she had imagined, even when she was thin.
Life in the Fat Lane provides a unique view of the teenage obsession with appearance as Lara Ardeche experiences both sides of the coin. Beginning the novel as a thin, beautiful and popular homecoming queen, the reader sees the benefits of fitting in with society's ideal image. As Lara gains weight rapidly, eventually ending up a size 24, the emotional torment she experiences illustrates the loneliness of being "different." As the reader transitions with Lara from beauty queen to "freak," Bennett takes the audience on the heartbreaking journey with her character. Secondary to Lara's weight disorder but equally heartbreaking is the breakdown of Lara's parents' marriage. Lara's mother provides a clear image of the future Lara may have had as a thin, beautiful woman, particularly the fact that this future is far from perfect. Overall, Life in the Fat Lane is a realistic look at what happens when the lie of perfection fails, and how to overcome the realization that apperances aren't everything.
I enjoyed this novel quite a bit because it took a different perspective on a common topic: dealing with obesity in high school. Instead of having spent her life overweight, Lara Ardeche transitions from beautiful and perfect to living "in the fat lane." I thought this was interesting, and I'm sure will resonate with readers who have experienced weight fluctuations.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn tells the story Francie Nolan and her family growing up in Brooklyn in the early 20th century. The book is divided into five parts. In part one, the reader meets eleven-year-old Francie and her little brother Neeley. Francie and Neeley live with their parents, Johnny and Katie in the tenements of Williamsburg. Johnny Nolan is an alcoholic and Katie works as a house cleaner. Living in utter poverty, Francie and Neeley earn pennies selling scrap metal with other children of the tenements. Part two tells the story of Johnny and Katie's meeting and falling in love as first generation immigrants. Part three describes the Nolan children as they begin school, as well as the death of Francie's father from pneumonia. The rest of the book chronicles Francie's coming-of-age as she and Neely grow up and get jobs to support their family. As Francie's life appears to have more on the horizon than that of her mother, she can't help but remember the small apartment in Brooklyn where she grew up.
Though written almost seventy years ago about a time long since past, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn remains one of the most celebrated and classic coming-of-age tales .The character of Francie Nolan is one many teen girls can identify with: she struggles to find out who she is while coping with her father's alcoholism, her family's poverty, and her unfortunate surroundings. Addicted to reading and education, Francie's unending struggle to better her life has and will continue to inspire many. Betty Smith paints a rich portrait of the characters in the novel, and as they grow, the reader feels connected with their lives. The book is also an excellent look at life in the early 20th century. Smith's attention to detail is perfect for creating a realistic backdrop for her story. In a way, Brooklyn itself is another character in the novel. Francie's ability to overcome adversity, essentially becoming the "tree" that grew out of Brooklyn, is what keeps generation after generation interested in reading this wonderful, heartwarming novel.
I have read this novel twice, once when I was about 14, the second time as an adult. Both times I thought it was wonderful. It is truly a classic piece of American literature, but I have met quite a few people who've never read/heard of it. It's definitely a must-read for people who enjoy historical fiction or period novels, but can be enjoyed by all audiences.
Tech-savvy, gamer Marcus Yallow is a high school senior in a San Francisco of the very near future. Constantly trying to evade his school's many security systems to play hooky, Marcus with his three best friends, Darryl, Vanessa (Van) and Jose Luis (Jolu), spends his time playing alternatate reality games and jaunting around his beloved city streets. One ordinary day, however, Marcus, Darryl, Van and Jolu get caught up in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack in US history, and are taken into custody by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). After being brutally interrogated, Marcus, Van and Jolu are released from prison and warned to never speak of their experiences as prisoners of the DHS. The return to their lives in San Francisco, only to find that the city is now overrun by menacing security precautions implemented by the DHS. Determined to expose the crimes committed by the DHS and thwart their efforts to "prevent future terrorist attacks," Marcus begins an all-out cyber war on the corrupt government agency. Using his computer hacking skills, new found love interest, Ange, and an army of high school students, Marcus delves deeper and deeper into his web of revenge. Will he be able to win this war, or will the government maintain its vice grip on lives of its citizens?
Full to the brim with techno jargon, pop culture references, and "leet," Cory Doctorow's Little Brother is an entertaining, if somewhat far-fetched, story about how far governments can and should go to keep their citizens safe. The story is told in the first person by Marcus Yallow, high school senior and generally cocky computer hacker, who involuntarily becomes involed with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after a large-scale terrorist attack on his beloved San Francisco. Bay area residents will appreciate Marcus' references to San Francisco streets and neighborhoods, and Doctorow's descriptions of the city are clever to the point that it almost becomes as important a character as Marcus himself. Equally as compelling are Doctorow's detailed descriptions of the methods Marcus uses to thwart the DHS, making the novel almost a lesson in computer technology and security systems. By the end of the story, the reader will have a clear understanding of "arphids," "gait tracking software," "Linux," and much more. Apart from the obvious mischief and havoc Marcus causes by exploiting his computer skills, the novel also acts as a critical examination of the application of these technologies in monitoring the behaviors of American citizens. Even before the terrorist attacks, it is clear that the world Marcus lives in is one of heavy surveillance. Using the experiences of his characters, Doctorow shows a very possible future of security taken to the extreme. Overall, the novel is a very relevant and thought-provoking read for teens and adults alike.
This thought-provoking novel, though a little far-fetched, is still an enjoyable read for teens. It has a huge technology component that many readers will enjoy, and the San Francisco bay area setting is very interesting as well. The novel will definitely resonate with budding conspiracy theorists as well.
Sixteen-year-old Leo Borlock is a junior at Mica High School. He leads a normal life, along with the rest of his classmates who try not to stand out. Everything changes when new-girl, Stargirl Caraway, arrives at Mica High. Stargirl does everything but fit in. She wears unusual clothes (her mother is a costume designer), she carries her pet rat, Cinnamon, with her everywhere, and generally dances to the beat of her own drum. At first the rest of the school isn't sure what to make of the newcomer, but soon the student body is enchanted by her charm, none more-so than Leo. Just as quickly as her popularity rises, however, it begins to fade when Mica High begins to question the things she does. They don't understand why she insists upon cheering when rival basketball teams score, why she shows up to the funerals of strangers, or any of her formerly charming actions. Leo's still madly in love with Stargirl, even if the rest of the school starts to shun them both. But how long will his infatuation last as Mica High School becomes more and more distant?
Stargirl is an interesting and unique story about an interesting and unique, free-spirited girl. Spinelli does an excellent job of setting the stage for Stargirl's "grand entrance" to Mica High School; it's akin to when Dorothy steps into the Land of Oz for the first time and everything goes from black-and-white to color. The relationship between Leo and Stargirl is an interesting mix of adoration and confusion. Leo doesn't know what to make of Stargirl's strange behavior: her ukulele playing, her unusual clothes, her celebration of all the little things her classmates do. Young readers will be able to appreciate how different Stargirl is from their own peers, just as Leo does. Her rise and fall from popularity will also be interesting for `tweens who might witness similar situation in their own schools. Overall, Stargirl's unique and fun-loving qualities make for an entertaining and heartwarming story that will likely stick with readers for some time.
I wasn't sure what to make of this novel initially, but came to find the character of Stargirl to be quite endearing. She is unlike any other character I've met in a novel, and I realized that that was likely Spinelli's intention. I really liked the relationship between Leo and Stargirl, and how he really admired her despite the pressure he felt from his classmates to shun her. I would definitely recommend this novel to `tween, teen and adult readers.
Bubbly middle-school cheerleader, Olivia Abbott, is determined to make the best of her family's move to a new town. She starts school and immediately seeks out the cheerleaders to befriend. It seems that the popular girls at this school, however, are not the nicest people in the world. One day, Olivia meets goth girl, Ivy Vega. Ivy is the opposite of Olivia: she wears black clothes and thick eyeliner, and is far from the cheerleading type. As Olivia gets to know Ivy better she makes a startling discovery: Ivy looks a lot like her, in fact, she and Ivy are identical twins! Things get even weirder when Olivia learns that their fashion choices aren't the only thing different between them: Ivy is actually one of many vampires who call Olivia's new town home. Despite their differences, Olivia and Ivy become close, and decide to help each other out, even if they have to switch places from time to time to do it! But can a vampire and a cheerleader really pose as one another without getting noticed?
Switched is the first novel in Mercer's My Sister the Vampire series which has since been followed up by five additional installments, with two more being published in 2011. It is a very interesting and original story, with likeable characters and a believable setting. Ivy and Olivia have a pretty fantastical story, but they deal with issues that are common in middle school: crushes, bullies, peer pressure, and self-confidence. The vampire aspect of the story only adds to the fun. Although this installment of the series does not go into too much detail about exactly how Ivy and Olivia were separated at birth and why Ivy is a vampire but Olivia isn't, Mercer manages to make the reader care enough about her characters to want to find out how they came to be in their situation. A very good start to a popular series for tweens.
I have to admit that I felt pretty silly wanting to run and get the next installment in this fun and interesting series. I think that these books are a wonderful substitute for younger readers who may not be ready to venture into vampire novels like Twilight or The House of Night series. I would highly recommend these to tweens who want something sugary with a dash of gothic.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a very engaging story about a very endearing character. Almost from the beginning, the reader will fall in love with Charlie and his quirkiness. Although it is clear that he has some deeply rooted psychological issues, Charlie's zest for his experiences is addicting. Charlie truly values the relationships he has with the people in his life. He discusses in great detail his feelings for his family, his friends Sam and Patrick, and his encouraging teacher, Bill. He also describes other experiences ranging from masturbation to acid trips to fighting. In every detail, however, Charlie provides an unusual but realistic look at what many teens experience. Charlie's prose is a look at what teens might think or feel if they weren't inhibited by the need to appear "normal." Charlie realizes that he's odd, but it doesn't change who he is or how he feels. Charlie's life and experiences draw the reader in, making the book difficult to put down. Teens and adults alike will find something in Charlie or in the people in his life to relate to. Charlie's friend Sam must struggle with the sexual victimization she received as a child. Her brother, Patrick, is dealing with being a closet homosexual who is in love with the high school's star athlete. Charlie's sister has an abusive boyfriend who threatens to abandon her he finds out she's pregnant. All of the characters in the novel are very relatable and create a rich and compelling cast for the plot. In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Chbosky has created a fun, interesting, entertaining but also very sweet, sentimental and emotional read.
I am a fan! This is a classic young adult novel that is also thoroughly enjoyable for adults. Charlie is one of the most endearing main characters ever written particularly because he is utterly quirky. I am really looking forward to the movie version that is set to come out in 2012.
Coraline Jones isn't thrilled when her parents move her into an apartment in an old Victorian house. Her neighbors, two elderly women named Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, and an eccentric old man, Mr. Bobo, don't help her to feel at home either. Coraline's parents don't pay her much attention, so she spends most of her time exploring the creepy old house. One day, she discovers a small door in the wall that has been bricked up. Despite warnings from her neighbors that she is in danger, Coraline decides to explore the door further when she is alone. She soon discovers that the bricks are gone, and instead, a passageway is on the other side of the door leading to an apartment that is identical to her own. Living in the other apartment are her Other Mother and Other Father, also identical copies of her own parents but with buttons for eyes. Coraline learns that this Other World is far more interesting than her own, and spends more and more time there, becoming closer with her Other Mother and Other Father. One day, her Other Mother offers to let Coraline live in the Other World forever. Coraline considers the idea, until she learns that in order to stay she will have to have buttons sewn on her eyes. Coraline quickly escapes the Other World, only to discover that her real parents are missing. Has her Other Mother trapped them in the Other World?
This novel, adapted into the hit 3D film of the same title, is a truly creepy but engrossing story that will spook even the bravest of young readers. Almost from the beginning of the story, it's clear that something unearthly is in store for Coraline. The house she's moved to is creepy, and when she discovers the Other World, things get even more suspicious. Although the Other World is, at first, delightful, something isn't quite right. Why do her Other Mother and Other Father have buttons for eyes? Why does the Other Mother seem so urgent to have Coraline agree to live in the Other World forever? After Coraline's parents are kidnapped and she must rescue them, things get even creepier. Several scenes when the Other World is beginning to unravel into the horrifying place it is are truly eerie, even for adult readers. `Tweens will delight in the scariness of Coraline's predicament, however, particularly since it does turn out well in the end. Gaiman does a truly remarkable job of creating an unusual and entertaining story for all ages to enjoy. Coraline is likely to be a classic for years to come.
As a big fan of the movie, I was really interested in reading the book version of Coraline. I was not disappointed! Like the film, the story is just eerie enough to be enjoyable. I really enjoyed the drawings by Dave Mckean that accompanied the text. They added an element of creepiness to the story, even though I had visions of the film while reading it. I would highly recommend this novel to `tweens searching for something fun to read under the covers at night. An instant classic
This illustrated novel tells the story of Bad Kitty and her bathing experiences. The primary purpose of the story is to instruct the reader on the proper methods of bathing a cat, Bad Kitty being the example "specimen." Chapters include the various steps of the bathing process, from preparing the bath, locating kitty, getting kitty into the water, and after the bath. Information is also given on feline anatomy and behavior: why cats lick themselves, the science behind a hairball and exactly why cats hate water. Bad Kitty is shown in various stages of the bath process, along with her "friend" Puppy. The conclusion of the novel contains an interview with author Nick Bruel about his life and career.
Bad Kitty Gets a Bath is one of several books in the Nick Bruel's Bad Kitty chapter book series and is a hilarious and fun but educational story about everyone's favorite naughty feline. Cat-lovers of all ages will enjoy and identify with the dreaded cat bath experience described in the book. Bruel's illustrations perfectly compliment the text, showing exactly how bad Bad Kitty is. The story's ironic and clever humor will hold a definite appeal for tweens. Hidden within the book are science facts about feline anatomy and behavior, adding some substance to the otherwise light-hearted tale. The interview with Bruel at the story's conclusion is also perfect for tween readers who might have an interest in creating a Bad Kitty tale of their own. Overall, this story is a hilarious must-read for tween cat lovers.
Bad Kitty Gets a Bath is one of the most hilarious books for children I have read in a long time. As a cat owner, I can completely identify with the experience of bathing Bad Kitty. Nick Bruel's illustrations are laugh-out-loud funny. This chapter book would be fun to read aloud to a classroom or group of tweens.
This ghost story follows the lives of those who have visited the Fischer House on the Isle of Wight off the English coast, those who have survived their visit anyway. The novel begins with Nick Mason, former military operative, who is deeply concerned for his younger sister. It seems that she and her friends, all philosophy students studying the paranormal, visited the mysterious Fischer House and encountered something so awful, one has committed suicide. Mason's sister seems to have slipped into a perpetual state of paranoia bordering on hysteria, and the other students are following-suit. Seeking to solve the mystery behind his sister's condition, Mason contacts journalist Paul Seaton. It seems that Seaton visited the Fischer House as a college student himself, and lived to tell the tale, though not without his own sense of unease and paranoia. Together, Mason and Seaton decide to uncover the truth behind what seems to be haunting the girls, and discover a horrifying tale dating back to the 1920s. As Mason's sister declines more and more, the hunt to stop whatever is stalking her grows more desperate.
British writer, F.G. Cottam, has created a dark, gothic ghost story in The House of Lost Souls that will appeal to adults and teens alike. The novel begins with a sense of foreboding and mystery: something terrible lurks in the Fischer House, something that drives anyone who visits the house insane with terror. After visiting the house, one of four college friends has committed suicide. The other three seem ready to follow suit. Trying to discover what it is that is haunting these students, as well as journalist Paul Seaton, enthrall the reader. The ghostly experiences of those who have visited the Fischer House, as well as the fact that the haunting continues long after they have returned to their normal lives, will appeal to teens. Fans of the horror/monster/ghost genre will enjoy the spooky happenings in The House of Lost Souls. One factor that makes the story appropriate for older teens is the lack of gore, language, or sexual situations that are often better suited for adult horror novels. Cottam prefers the psychological scare, and doesn't need blood and guts to achieve his goal. Another factor that will appeal to horror fans is the presence of historical horror and occult novelist Dennis Wheatley as a character in the novel. The House of Lost Souls is an excellently crafted and truly creepy ghost story; one that is sure to be loved by teens and adults alike.
This is definitely a book for older teens or adults as it does get quite scary at times, but for those who can handle it, you're in for a treat! I loved the mix of history and fiction, they worked together well to make an excellent ghost story. Can't wait for F.G. Cottam's next novel, Dark Echo!
Magnus Stannard, a tenacious businessman, has made his career on unusual moves that have proved successful, resulting in a large fortune and a great deal of power. His only son, Martin, has failed to live up to this shining example of entrepreneurialism, and has always believed his father's feelings towards him to be those of disappointment. When Magnus acquires a vintage yacht called the Dark Echo he informs Martin, and his business partners, that he is retiring to a life at sea. He invites Martin to take a transatlantic voyage with him from England to New York to begin his new nautical existence. Martin, with the help of his researcher girlfriend Suzanne, begin looking into the history of the yacht. It seems that it was commissioned by a millionaire playboy and World War I veteran, Harry Spalding, in the 1920s. Spalding lived a dashing existence, but was also rumored to dabble in Satanism. The yacht is thought by those familiar with it to be cursed, but Magnus ignores these rumors. As the crew working to restore the boat falls victim to strange accidents, Martin and Suzanne become convinced that the history of the boat will reveal the truth about the dangers they now face.
This intriguing ghost story is a mixture of historical fact and fiction that makes for an intense, supernatural mystery. The reader comes to know the characters in the novel quite well, and this understanding makes the plot all the more interesting. Martin's failed attempt at a life in the Church, Suzanne's professional interest with Michael Collins, and Magnus' lifelong obsession with the yacht are just some of the subplots that add to the richness of the story. The historical figures placed in the book as well as the various locations in the UK set the tone for some of the creepy happenings. Overall, Cottam weaves an intricate tale that definitely pays off in the end.
I can proudly proclaim myself an F.G. Cottam fan after reading his second "ghost story" (the first was The House of Lost Souls, which I highly recommend.) Although I did prefer his first novel to this, Dark Echo is a very interesting story with a lot of history and some truly creepy moments. Definitely for readers who are into plots that are intense but with depth. I would only recommend this title for older teens as there is some violence and gory situations, but nothing too out of hand.
Katrina Katrell lives with a distant relative, Mrs. Krabone, who doesn't understand why the young girl is constantly daydreaming about adventures and mythical creatures. One day when Katrina and Mrs. Krabone are on the subway, Katrina is sure she sees a large, hairy creature wearing a tie and walking around the underground tunnels. Mrs. Krabone is finally fed up, and contacts Doctor LeFang to "cure" Katrina with his horrible Cranial Puncturing Mincer of Mind. Katrina catches wind of the plan, and manages to escape. By chance, she meets up with Morty, a Zorgle, and the very same creature she spotted earlier on the subway. It appears that Morty has been given a quest to find out what happened to the Zorgles of Zorgamazoo, an underground country village where the inhabitants have vanished. Morty is quite timid, but his new friend, Katrina, convinces him to proceed on what she's sure will be a grand adventure for them both.
Told entirely in rhyming couplets, Zorgamazoo is a creative and entertaining story for readers of all ages. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Weston's rhymes is that they never grow stale or seem forced. He does have to employ some made-up words (a nod to Dr. Seuss), but, in general, he manages to rhyme ordinary phrases that `tweens will be able to understand. The plot of the novel is also very clever, with nods to influential authors like Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket, but in an original package. Younger readers might be frightened by Mrs. Krabone and Doctor LeFang, who want to lobotomize Katrina. Some of the illustrations in the book, such as those of the Octomabots, a machine that is a cross between a bee and an octopus, and of Doctor LeFang's Cranial Puncturing Mincer of Mind, might be frightening as well. Other aspects of the plot, however, like Winnie the Windingo who constantly cries, and an ogre who is extremely attached to his glass eye, will lighten the mood. Overall, Zorgamazoo is a fun novel for readers who are interested in something a little bit different. It would also make a great read-aloud for a classroom or group of children or `tweens.
I had heard a great deal about this award-winning novel, and wasn't disappointed in how clever and unique it is amongst recent literature for `tweens. Weston's rhymes were simply amazing. While reading the book I couldn't help but be constantly reminded of the work that must have gone into composing an entire novel, completely in rhyme. For me, the storyline played second fiddle to Weston's literary craftsmanship. I did enjoy the novel quite a bit, and would definitely recommend it to `tweens as well as teachers seeking a fun read-aloud.
Nathan Cobbe's life changed forever the day his mother was tragically killed in a bus accident. Now he lives with his father, Henry, in a dingy apartment in a run-down project slated to be demolished at anytime. Nathan's life is humdrum: he attends school but doesn't really pay attention, his father is making him take physics review at a local community college to prepare for exams, and his only friend, Moll, can't seem to get through to him. One night, however, during his physics review, Nathan meets someone that takes him on a strange adventure through time: an enormous Beefeater named Bartleby who seems to know quite a bit about Nathan's life. It seems that Henry is inadvertently travelling through time, trying to stop Nathan's mother from getting hit by the bus that ended her life. What Nathan learns, however, is that some things in life, and time, are meant to happen, and that changing them can alter the world in unimaginable ways. With Bartleby's help, Nathan must stop his father from setting time spinning by changing the past, before it's too late.
This unique story is British author Jason Cockcroft's first novel, and provides an interesting and cerebral read for tweens that will get them thinking about topics they might not be familiar with. American readers will likely have to familiarize themselves with certain important terms Cockcroft uses to advance the plot, like Beefeater, another name for the Yeomen Warders who guard the tower of London, and Routemasters, or red double-decker buses. Once the British vocabulary is understood, the story is very gripping. Nathan's adventures through time are not as exciting or magical as other literary time-travellers. His father is trying, inadvertently, to stop the tragic events that cause the death of Nathan's mother. Nathan is torn between his desire to set time on the right course and his own grief at the loss of his mother. The relationship between Nathan and his father Henry extends far below the surface interactions that are common in other novels for tweens, giving young readers a chance to truly think about how father and son might bond after the loss of a mother and wife. The character of Bartleby the Beefeater is akin to a large, eccentric and mischievous Fairy Godmother. At first, the reader isn't sure what to make of him, but as the story progresses, he becomes quite likable. Overall, Counter Clockwise is an unusual story that will appeal to tweens of both genders and of varying degrees of interest in the science fiction genre.
This was a very interesting read, and I was surprised by the depth of the emotions evoked from the story. I learned some new tidbits about British culture and enjoyed Cockcroft's writing style. I look forward to more works from this new author. (less)
Paul, Arnie, Crank and Oz are best friends living in Sierra Madre, a suburb of Los Angeles, in 1955. The boys love spending their summer days at the local theater watching the latest horror movies. When they learn that a new movie called Invasion of the Body Snatchers is set to be filmed in their town, they're ecstatic. The boys get to see the movie being filmed and even become friends with the director, Don Siegel, and a beautiful extra named Laura Burke. But when they learn that an FBI agent is working on the movie set to determine if anyone involved in the film is a communist, their summer of fun turns into their own hunt for Russian sympathizers.
The Year of the Bomb opens the door for tweens to learn about a time many may not be familiar with, the communist witch-hunts of the McCarthy era. Friends Paul, Arnie, Crank and Oz are a likeable gang of teenage boys who fill their days in much the same as their 2011 counterparts would: exploring the world through the eyes of the movie camera. Many classic horror films are mentioned in the book and will undoubtedly prompt curiosity on the part of young readers who want to learn more about Invaders from Mars or Invasion of the Body Snatchers. What makes the story so interesting is that it makes reference to real people, places and events. In a way, the novel is a history lesson disguised as a story about a group of friends in the 1950s. While The Year of the Bomb is not for everyone (tween girls might not be as interested in this title), it is an entertaining and well-written story that holds a lot of appeal for readers who are interested in this particular historical period.
I began reading this book not knowing quite what to expect, but was very pleased with what I found. The McCarthy-era is one of the most interesting and strange periods in American history and I love that Kidd created a book for tweens that looks into it. I had some familiarity with the movies mentioned in the story, but it definitely peaked my interest in watching more classic horror films, which I'm sure would be the effect upon tween readers as well.
Sixteen-year-old Kaylee Cavanaugh has a strange ability: she knows when someone is going to die. She senses it, sees the person covered in shadow, and is unable to do anything but scream. Kaylee is not sure if this ability is a gift or a curse. She lives with her uncle Brendon, aunt Val and cousin Sophie; her father lives in Ireland and sent her to America after her mother's death. Her aunt and uncle seem to think her ability is psychological, like a panic attack. When gorgeous and popular Nash takes a sudden interest in Kaylee, and seems to know a lot about these visions she has, however, Kaylee begins to wonder if maybe she's not crazy. It turns out, Kaylee is a bean sidhe (or "banshee"): a mythical death herald. Screaming and wailing for the nearly deceased is part of who, or what she is. Nash knows this because he is a bean sidhe too, only he has the ability to guide souls that have recently departed their bodies. Together, Kaylee and Nash have to figure out why beautiful and healthy girls keep dropping dead at their high school. Can two bean sidhes in love save their classmates before it's too late?
Creative, original and entertaining, My Soul To Take, the first book in the Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent, is a delight for any fan of monsters, vampires, ghosts, faeries, and other paranormal creatures. The novel begins with Kaylee experiencing a vision of death right away. Instead of opening with back-story and an introduction of the characters, Vincent gets the action started immediately, capturing the reader's interest from the start. The rest of the novel is devoted to expanding on the characters of Kaylee and Nash, and the history of the bean sidhe, all while moving forward with the plot. The result is a page-turner that is difficult to put down until the conclusion. In an almost Harry Potter fashion, it is revealed that Kaylee comes from a long long of bean sidhe, her father, mother, even her uncle Brendon are all bean sidhes. The reader discovers along with Kaylee the extent of her powers, the truth behind her life, and how she can use her abilities. Instead of observing Kaylee from the outside, Vincent places the reader right in the plot with her, creating an exciting experience that teens, and adults, will love. The novel also sets the stage for the other books in the series, keeping the reader interested in learning more about Kaylee and Nash, and seeing what kind of situations they will undoubtedly encounter in the future. Vincent's writing style is also very relevant for teens. Kaylee acts and speaks like a typical sixteen-year-old girl, despite the fact that she is a bean sidhe, and teen readers will identify with her feelings and attitudes. Overall, My Soul To Take is a must-read for teens who enjoy the genre.
I absolutely loved this novel. There are so many stories, especially for teens, that include monsters, whether it's vampires, zombies, werewolves, fairies, etc. I was so excited to see one that included one of the most interesting characters from Celtic lore: the bean sidhe. Kaylee is a very likable heroine as well, and takes on her newly discovered abilities with a sense of humor, not a pout or temper tantrum. I also highly recommend the rest of this fun series!
traveler. Gwyneth has always known, as has the rest of the family, that her beautiful and sophisticated cousin Charlotte is the carrier of the time travelling gene, having fulfilled a centuries old prophecy of being born on October 7, 1994. Gwyneth, who's birthday is October 8, never suspected the truth: that her mother lied about her birth date to protect her from lifelong preparations for travelling through time. It seems that Gwyneth was actually born on the 7th and is the actual gene carrier. Now, she is thrust into the middle of the web of secrets that has ensnared her family for generations. To make matters worse, she must also contend with her time-travelling counterpart, Gideon, a member of another wealthy family who give birth to a male time traveler with each new generation. Gideon is handsome, but too stuck up for Gwyneth who he, and everyone else, is convinced is just a silly girl, incapable of being as fit for navigating the past as the well-trained Charlotte would have been. Will Gwyneth be able to handle her new found gifts and the secrets that come with them?
With a promising premise, Ruby Red makes for a slow start to what will surely blossom into an entertaining trilogy. Gier appears to be using the first novel in this new trilogy to set the stage for adventure. There is a lot of character development, particularly of the heroine, Gwyneth, and a great deal of background about Gwyneth's family legacy. Gwyneth's actual emergence as the real female time traveler and dethroning of her stuck-up cousin, Charlotte, are the primary plot points in the novel, as well as her budding romance with fellow time-traveler, Gideon. Some more sinister characters are introduced, but are not really expanded upon, something that will hopefully occur in the next installments. Overall, Ruby Red is a light-hearted and slow-paced beginning to a trilogy with a lot of potential. Hopefully Gier will deliver an even better second installment with Sapphire Blue set for release in Spring 2012.
I think the premise of this book saved it from what I found to be a very slow pace. For some reason it just seemed to take a long time for the action to really get going, but once it did I began to see a lot of potential. I think Gier does a great job of setting the stage for the real adventure to come in the rest of the series. I look forward to seeing how it pans out.
Fifteen years earlier, Colonel Mark Hunter was a newlywed sent on a covert mission from his London home to the rainforests of Bolivia. Expecting to uncover and destroy a drug trafficking facility, what he and his comrades actually discovered in the jungle was something far more sinister. An evil sorceress protected by an army of undead soldiers murdered his fellow soldiers, and cursed Hunter, promising that his offspring would commune with the dead. Now, Mark is retired and living in Scotland with his ten-year-old son Adam, his wife and daughter recently killed in an accident. Adam is an exceptionally bright child, but has recently become afflicted with terrifying nightmares. Although he knows in his heart that his son his possessed as a result of the curse, Mark calls upon local doctor, Elizabeth Bancroft, to try to determine if there is a medical cause of Adam’s illness. Elizabeth is no stranger to the idea of curses, having come from a family long associated with witchcraft. Elizabeth herself doesn’t believe in magic, but the more she learns about Adam, the more she is convinced that there is something truly evil at work. Determined to save his son, Mark searches for a way to end the curse. In trying to find a cure, however, Mark begins to uncover the truth about what is afflicting Adam, and how his presence in Bolivia fifteen years earlier was no accident at all.
Always creating an intriguing mixture of historical fact and fiction, veteran author F.G. Cottam offers up yet another nail-biting novel in the same vein as his previous two works, The House of Lost Souls and Dark Echo. Cottam’s novels usually contain more than a little macabre details, and The Magdalena Curse is no different. Although somewhat toned down from his other two works, some of the grisly details make this novel appropriate only for the older teen and adult audience. For readers who want something spooky and suspenseful, however, this, like Cottam’s other novels, is an excellent choice. The details of what exactly is transpiring in The Magdalena Curse take awhile to unravel. Is Adam possessed? If he is, who or what is possessing him? How can the entity be stopped? These are all questions that the reader journeys through, all with an edge-of-the-seat quality that makes the novel difficult to put down. Cottam’s mixture of historic references makes the story even more intriguing, especially in generating interest in learning more about various locations, poets and songs. Overall, The Magdalena Curse is a scary and entertaining novel that fans of suspense are sure to enjoy.
I really enjoy F.G. Cottam’s novels, and The Magdalena Curse was no different. His writing style and ability to create suspense and mystery is excellent. I was really intrigued by each of the characters in the book, and found it really difficult to put down, wanting to learn their fates. I always like Cottam’s inclusion of historical or cultural references and how they tie into the story so well. I can’t wait to read his next novel once it is published in the United States. F.G. Cottam definitely ranks high among authors I would recommend to older teens or adults who want an entertaining and spooky read! (less)
This sequel to Jane Austen's classic novel Sense and Sensibility (1811) picks up three years after the events of the original story. Marianne Dashwood, now Mrs. Brandon, is happily married to the devoted Colonel Brandon, and has a child of her own. Her sister, Elinor Dashwood, now Mrs. Ferrars, lives nearby with her husband Edward and their children. This novel focuses more, however, on the younger Dashwood sister, Margaret, who is now sixteen and quite beautiful. When Colonel Brandon's handsome nephew, Henry, comes to Delaford to visit his uncle, Marianne is determined to play matchmaker between her nephew and sister. Marianne's plans seem to be going well, Margaret and Henry become increasingly attached to one another. But nothing prepares Marianne for the shock she experiences next: John Willoughby, her first love who spurned her for a rich heiress, has returned to Dorsetshire with his wife. It appears that Willoughby and Mrs. Brandon will be forced to spend time in eachother's company at social events in the neighborhood, and Marianne is conflicted by a resurgence of feelings for the dashing man. She becomes even more unsure as her husband spends more and more time with his ward, Eliza, and her daughter, who happens to be Willoughby's daughter as well, in Lyme. Convinced that Colonel Brandon may have fallen in love with Eliza, Marianne begins to wonder if Willoughby's affections might be worth returning.
Although the story doesn't have the same literary magic of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, this sequel provides an entertaining and interesting read for those who loved the original story. Marianne Brandon, neé Dashwood, is now nineteen-years-old and has been happily married to her husband, Colonel Brandon, for three years. The couple have a child, and everything seems to be going well for Marianne, although she does appear to be slightly bored in her new life. She sees an opportunity for excitement when Brandon's nephew, Henry, comes to visit and seeks to play matchmaker between him and her sister Margaret, now sixteen-years-old. The storyline of Henry and Margaret is not as interesting as the return of John Willoughby, however. Fans of the original, both teen and adult, will clamber to see what happens when Marianne encounters her first love. In Willoughby, Austen truly created a dashing lothario, and left the novel open enough to leave the reader wondering what would happen if Marianne and Willoughby were ever reunited. Odiwe does a good job of entertaining these notions, with a lot of sexual tension, temptation and lust. The rest of the storyline, such as Colonel Brandon's supposed love for his ward, Eliza, and the inclusion of the irritating Lucy Ferrars and her sister, Anne Steele, are not quite as satisfactory. Still, the novel will appeal to both teen and adult fans of the original and continues in the spirit of the iconic Jane Austen.
I am a huge Jane Austen fan, and especially love the character of Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility (largely due to his portrayal by Greg Wise in the 1995 film version.) When I saw a novel that delved into what might have happened had Willoughby reentered the lives of the Dashwoods, I had to read it. Overall I enjoyed the novel, although the plot line with Marianne and Willoughby was the only one I found really interesting (there are also subplots about Margaret Dashwood and Colonel Brandon having a "love affair" with his ward, Willoughby's ex, Eliza.) Despite the mediocrity of these subplots, I still recommend this title for Jane Austen fans everywhere.
Life for seventeen-year-old Rosa Alcantara has never been simple. Part of one of the most powerful Mafia families in Italy, Rosa’s parents moved her and her sister Zoe to New York City to escape the crime and murder that is part of everyday life for the Alcantaras. After tragedy strikes, however, Rosa decides to move to Sicily, and join Zoe, who already left New York to live with Florinda in the Palazzo Alcantara. As head of the Alcantaras, Florinda is far from warm and fuzzy, but Rosa hopes that a new life in Sicily will be what she needs. Everything changes, however, when Rosa happens to meet handsome and charming Alessandro Carnevare. As the son and heir of the Carnevare family, Alessandro is an enemy of Rosa’s, but the two are instantly attracted to one another. Alessandro’s father has recently died, and he is set to become the next head of the Carnevare family. Alessandro informs Rosa, however, that he believes his father’s advisor and right-hand-man, Cesare , wants to overthrow him and becoming the new leader of the Carnevares. Rosa wants to help Alessandro, much to the distress of Florinda and Zoe who don’t want her anywhere near members of a rival family. Things are further complicated when, one evening, Rosa encounters a massive, powerful tiger in the forest surrounding the Palazzo, a tiger with very human-like eyes who seems to know who she is.
Originally published in Germany, this novel from renowned author Kai Meyer is the first installment in the Arcadia Awakens trilogy. Part Godfather part paranormal romance, Arcadia Awakens is a truly unique book for teens. While there are paranormal elements to the story, the bulk of the novel is made up of the conflict between the Alcantaras and Carnevares, two rival Mafia families and members of Cosa Nostra. Readers who are unfamiliar with the Mafia might be slightly confused by many of the terms and references, although the novel could be incentive to learn more about one of pop culture’s most commonly depicted organized crime groups. For those who aren’t as interested in the Mafia aspects of the story, the very Romeo and Juliet romance between Rosa and Alessandro, as well as the paranormal elements, will be intriguing enough on their own. The author does a good job of creating a story that appeals to a broad audience, and one that definitely has enough potential to warrant a trilogy. The second book in the trilogy, Arcadia Burns, has been released in Germany and will be released in the United States in the near future.
This was one of those books that really left me stumped on what to expect. I knew it was about the Mafia, I had a pretty good guess that it had to do with shapeshifting of some kind, and I knew it was by a German author. What I didn’t know, and was pleasantly surprised to find out, was that it was one of the most unique books I’ve read for the young adult audience this year. The Mafia isn’t something you find too often in books for teens, and I really enjoyed the way the author dove headfirst into creating a very Godfather-¬y tale. The mythological and paranormal aspects of the story kind of took a backseat for me as I was reading the book, but I am hoping they will be expanded upon in the second and third installments because I think they hold loads of potential. One minor (and annoying) detail that I felt compelled to mention, was the frequent use of the word “supple” in the novel. I don’t have a problem with this word and maybe it had something to do with the book being translated from German to English, but it seemed like everything in the novel was “supple.” A little strange. There is also a decent amount of swearing, violence and gore in the book, which would make it hard for me to recommend to middle school-ers. For older teens, however, I would definitely suggest Arcadia Awakens as a unique and enjoyable read, chock full of romance and adventure. (less)
One sunny afternoon in the forest turns into a nightmare for Ansel and Gretchen when Gretchen's twin sister is stolen by a witch. When the girl never returns, Ansel and Gretchen's parents both eventually die from grief, leaving them to the care of their stepmother who throws them out of the house shortly after Gretchen turns eighteen. Not sure what the future holds, the pair head cross country in hopes of starting a new life. When they make it to South Carolina, Ansel's Jeep gives out, and the pair find themselves in the town of Live Oak with only a few dollars to their name. Soon, they find themselves working for Sophia, a beautiful and charismatic candymaker who's house and shop are on the outskirts of town. Ansel and Gretchen are useful in the chocolatier, and the three become fast friends. Gretchen is still haunted by the memories of her sister, however, and is plagued with fear of the woods surrounding Sophia's house. Her fears are worsened when she learns that Live Oak has a terrible secret that seems to involve Sophia, a secret that sounds eerily similar to what happened to her sister years before. Could the witch have followed Ansel and Gretchen to their new home in Live Oak?
This clever spin-off of the classic tale of Hansel and Gretel makes for a very entertaining and unique read that is scary at times but always enjoyable. The novel opens with Ansel and Gretchen as children playing in the woods with their sister, Gretchen's identical twin. When their sister is stolen by a witch with golden eyes, Gretchen is haunted not only by memories of the terrible incident, but with guilt over the fact that she survived but her sister did not. When the pair wind up in Live Oak, South Carolina, the author does an excellent job of slowly building up the suspense over what will inevitably be another encounter with the witch from their past. One of the major ingredients in the sense of foreboding that the novel invokes are the forests surrounding the small town. Anyone with any sense of trepidation over forests will undoubtedly find what lurks within the trees unsettling and sometimes downright creepy. Pearce does an excellent job of taking the novel to some scary places, but never pushing it over the edge into pure horror. Overall, an original take on an old tale that readers are sure to enjoy.
I am a huge fan of fairy tale spin-offs and this is definitely one of my favorites. The whole concept of the creature lurking in the woods, waiting and watching really creeped me out, but also increased my enjoyment of the novel even more. Pearce really knows how to set the stage for a dramatic climax in the story. I also found myself genuinely caring about the fates of Ansel, Gretchen and Sophia, which made the novel that much more engrossing. I hope Pearce continues to write novels like this! I will certainly be reading them!
Ex-CIA agent Wyman Ford is asked by the government to undertake a mission to the jungles of Cambodia to discover the truth about a mine that seems to be producing radioactive gem stones. Twenty-year-old college dropout Abby Straw and her friend Jackie look for a mysterious meteorite that struck an island off the coast of their small hometown in Maine. Scientist Mark Corso receives a classified hard drive stolen from the National Propulsion Facility from his former professor and mentor who was killed in an alleged home invasion. All of these events seem to be random and not connected but, in fact, all point to a dangerous threat from space that threatens the Earth, solar system, and universe. Can the mystery surrounding the mine, meteor and hard drive be solved in time to save the human race from extinction?
This sci-fi/thriller novel from author Douglas Preston packs a powerful punch with an interesting plot, compelling characters, and enough action to keep the pages turning at a rapid pace. Each of the different storylines is intriguing in its own right, and when the characters begin to converge and things become clearer, the reader is in for a treat. Preston does a great job of explaining the various scientific aspects of the plot, ensuring that nothing is lost on readers who might not be familiar with astronomy. There is also quite a bit of marine lingo that is illustrated effectively as well. Although the novel does contain some adult themes and language, Impact makes an excellent adult/teen crossover, providing enough action to engage teens and adults alike. Overall, an enjoyable novel that is difficult to put down. An excellent recommendation for older teens ready to move on from young adult sci-fi.
The prospect of becoming queen someday has always frightened Nalia, heir to the throne of the kingdom of Thorvaldor. Having spent her life in the lush palace in the capital city of Vivaskari, Nalia feels more comfortable in the library enjoying a good book or with her best friend, Kiernan, than learning the skills necessary to be a proper princess. Shortly after her sixteenth birthday, however, Nalia’s life changes forever when she learns the truth: she is not a princess, but only a stand-in meant to keep the real Nalia safe from a prophesy that warned of a possible murder attempt on the real princess before she turned sixteen. Now the true heir to the throne is returning, and there is no need for the false Nalia, who also learns that her real name is Sinda, an orphan who’s only living relative is an aunt who works as a dyer in the nearby village of Treb. Forced to leave the only home she has ever known, and Kiernan, Sinda moves to Treb and discovers that her royal education does little to help her get by in life as a commoner. Fortunately, Sinda makes another startling discovery: her real mother, like many in the kingdom of Thorvaldor, was sorceress, and Sinda herself has magical powers. Determined to reunite with Kiernan and make a name for herself beyond the title of false princess, Sinda returns to Vivaskari and begins to apprentice with Philantha, a kind but eccentric sorceress. What Sinda doesn’t expect upon returning to her old town, however, is that there might be more to the story of her former life as princess than she realized.
The False Princess, the first novel written by author Eilis O’Neal, is perfect for readers with fond childhood memories of fairy tales who want to read something with a bit more romance, action, and adventure. Set in the magical land of Thorvaldor, one of the biggest strengths of the story is the author’s skills at world-building. A lot of creativity is evident in her creation of place names, the history of the kingdom, and the mythology of the characters and events. A lot of factors play a role in the plot, but the effort taken to make the reader understand and care about Sinda, Kiernan and the Thorvaldor monarchy is very well concealed. The story is constructed effortlessly, making for a smooth, easily enjoyed fantasy adventure. The character of Sinda is likable and relatable, particularly after she is given the heave-ho once the true Nalia returns to the palace. Readers will sympathize with what she is going through and her actions, both good and bad, work well in the context of her experiences. The supporting characters are also very well-written, including Sinda’s best friend Kiernan and the goofy but lovable sorceress Philantha. Overall, there is much to enjoy in The False Princess and it would be highly recommendable to tween and teen girls who want a more age-appropriate fairy tale than Cinderella.
I love a good fairy tale, so it was easy for me to like The False Princess with all of its magic, sword-fighting, princesses, and adventure. It’s not difficult to understand why this novel has received the accolades it has: it is well-written, very age-appropriate, and entertaining. I would have no trouble recommending this title to tween or teen girls who are in the mood for something with a medieval flavor. I look forward to seeing what else Eilis O’Neal publishes in the future. (less)
The Serengeti Plain is one of the most diverse and beautiful regions in Africa. Full of terrifying but awe-inspiring terrain, animals and other wildlife, the Serengeti is home to some of the Earth’s most amazing creatures. One such creature is Jaspa. Jaspa is a Giraffeses, a small, magical version of a regular giraffe, who, like the other Ses creatures in the world, is invisible to the human eye. Every year, members of Jaspa’s herd of Giraffeses must participate in a rite-of-passage known as the Journey: a 500 mile trek across the Serengeti Plain where only the brave will survive. This year Jaspa, and his younger brother Bisckits, are setting out on their Journey, with no idea what the rugged landscape has in store for them. Although they suspect that their travels will be full of danger and excitement, what they don’t expect is that their Journey coincides with a Ben, a boy from London who is on vacation with his family in the Serengeti. Ben is a Seer, a human with the ability to see and communicate with the Ses. And he has a secret that will make Jaspa and Bisckits’ Journey unlike any other.
For students interested in learning a great deal about the Serengeti Plain, Jaspa’s Journey, the debut novel from British born author Rich Meyrick, is a fun and lively novel that teaches while it entertains. Full to the brim of facts about wildlife, flora and fauna, geography, and more, Meyrick has managed to pack an encyclopedia’s worth of knowledge into a novel of appropriate length for younger readers. The story of Jaspa and the idea of the Ses is interesting and, although the various Ses in the novel act and talk just like a human would, having an animal as the primary protagonist proves to be enjoyable. Young American readers might have a bit of trouble understanding some of the author’s British lingo (i.e. “blooming,” “holiday,” etc.), they will, with a little bit of perseverance, eventually get used to and likely come to enjoy Meyrick’s writing style. Overall, a fun, creative book that would do well in a classroom to enhance learning about Africa and the Serengeti. The novel is currently available for download on amazon.com and at www.jaspasjourney.com. The sequel, Jaspa’s Journey: The Pride of London was released in Summer 2012.
I was offered the chance to read a free downloadable version of this book, and (after getting used to reading on a screen, something I don’t often do!) I found it to be very cute and fun. It’s definitely for a middle to upper elementary school level, and while the factual information about Africa and the Serengeti does dominate most of the book, the story of Jaspa and the Ses was a creative addition. I think it would make an enjoyable classroom read-aloud, and would recommend it to any student wanting to learn more about Africa by reading something other than a non-fiction book. (less)
Eighteen-year-old Kelsey just graduated high school and lives a humdrum life with her adoptive parents in her home state of Oregon. Kelsey's own parents were killed years before in a car accident, and she isn't sure what life holds for her now that she's an adult. After getting a temporary job at a travelling circus, Kelsey becomes enamored with a mysterious white tiger named Dhiren, or Ren. Kelsey is fond of the tiger with his soulful blue eyes, so she spends her free time reading to him and talking to him about her life. One afternoon, a friendly Indian man named Mr. Kadam visits the circus and informs Kelsey and Ren's circus handlers that a man in India has offered to purchase the tiger for a hefty fee. The circus accepts, and Mr. Kadam asks Kelsey, who obviously has formed a bond with Ren, to accompany him and the tiger to India in order to make his transition into his new life easier. After arriving in India, Kelsey quickly learns that Ren is not actually a tiger, he is an Indian prince (an incredibly handsome one at that) who was cursed centuries before to spend his life as a tiger. Ren can only spend 24 minutes each day in his human form, and begs Kelsey to help him figure out a way to end the curse. Mr. Kadam, who is actually Ren's faithful servant, Kelsey and Ren embark on an adventure in India that is beyond Kelsey's wildest expectations.
In this debut novel of Houck's Tiger's Curse series sets the stage for a new fantasy story that is sure to excite readers who enjoy ancient curses, adventure and romance. It is obvious that Houck has done her research into the history and landscape of India. The story is chock full of references to ancient Indian figures as well as Indian dress, locations and landscapes. Houck's writing-style is highly descriptive, which is, at times, ventures into the realm of overkill (is it really necessary to know that Kelsey shampooed her hair twice in the shower?), but does set the stage well for the plot. She has also created a cast of characters that are complex enough to maintain the reader's interest throughout this budding series. The romance between Kelsey and Ren is, obviously, the main selling point of the novel. Houck does an excellent job of describing just how handsome and dashing Ren in, as well as how madly in love he falls with the somewhat awkward Kelsey. Kelsey's efforts to convince herself that Ren is only going to break her heart do, at times, seem contrived, but Houck has created enough sexual tension between the two to keep the reader interested. The addition of Ren's brother, Kishan, a fellow tiger cursee, can only add to the mix. Overall, a good start to a promising series.
Although I wasn't always a huge fan of Colleen Houck's writing style, I did enjoy this book when it was all said and done. As a protagonist, Kelsey can be irritating at times, falling into such Bella-esque character flaws as whining, insecurity, and general angst. For me, the real enjoyment I found in the book lay in Ren and the tiger curse, as well as the setting in India. I look forward to reading the just released sequel, Tiger's Quest.
Like all the residents of the small village of Near, Lexi knows the legend of the Near Witch well: hundreds of years ago, a kind witch lived in Near and loved the children of the village. She could speak to the moor and control the winds and the rain and protected the village until the day she died. Most of Near thinks the story is an old wives tale, but Lexi, like her late-father, respects the story and the harsh but plentiful landscape of the moor that surrounds the village. One night, however, a mysterious stranger appears in the village. Curious about the handsome but haunted boy with dark eyes and pale skin, Lexi wants to learn more about how the stranger, whom she calls Cole, came to be in Near. Unfortunately, Cole’s arrival in the village occurs on the same night as the first of many children begin to go missing from Near. Lured from their beds by the wind, the townspeople are convinced that Cole is responsible for the disappearances. Lexi, however, knows that it is the work of the Near Witch who, despite what the legend says, was actually brutally murdered by the people of Near hundreds of years earlier. Desperate to protect her younger sister, Wren, and prove the innocence of Cole, Lexi must use the skills her father taught her to save the village from the wrath of the Near Witch.
Quiet but haunting, this debut novel from author Victoria Schwab paints a magical and unique fairy tale ghost story that thoughtful readers are sure to enjoy. Almost as important as the characters in the novel is the setting. The village of Near and the surrounding moor, a foggy grassland full of hills and valleys, play a major role in the story. Schwab does an excellent job of establishing the atmosphere of The Near Witch, describing in detail Lexi’s love and respect for her village and the moor and the importance of legend in Near. Although the time period is never stated in the novel, it is clear that the story takes place at some point in the past, likely the 19th century, when tales of witches and enchantments would still hold a great deal of meaning for people living in an isolated village. The disappearances of the children, the arrival of the mysterious strange, Cole, and the resurgence of the Near Witch all fit perfectly into the world that the author has so effectively crafted, creating an intriguing story that can be enjoyed by tweens, teens and adults alike.
I love historical fiction, ghost stories and fairy tales and The Near Witch seemed to be the perfect combination of the three! Victoria Schwab is a very talented author and her writing style really helped to transport the reader to the village of Near. I liked the relationship between Lexi and her sister Wren and her determination to protect and care for her sister. I also liked the slow but sweet romance between Lexi and Cole. While I don’t think the novel will appeal to readers who want something full of action or adventure, I definitely would recommend The Near Witch to anyone who enjoys quiet but intriguing mysteries. (less)
On the night of her seventeenth-birthday, Skye Parker meets cousins Asher and Devin. New to her small Colorado town of River Springs, the two are complete opposites. Dark and wild, Asher is the more flirtatious of the pair, instantly charming all the girls at Skye’s high school. Fair and quiet, Devin is far more reserved, showing more than a little contempt for Asher’s boisterous personality. What’s far more strange, however, is how the two seem to be inexplicably interested in Skye. Since her parents were killed in a car accident on her sixth-birthday, Skye has lived a quiet life with her Aunt Jo, spending her free time with best friends Cassie and Dan, and competing on the ski team. She has never been one to draw the attention of a lot of guys, especially two handsome, mysterious ones like Asher and Devin. As Skye gets to know the cousins, however, she learns that their presence in River Springs, and their interest in her, is no accident. Who they are and the role they play in Skye’s past, and future, will change her life forever.
Book editor turned author, Jocelyn Davies, delivers a healthy dose of romance, angst and adventure in A Beautiful Dark, the first novel in a new paranormal romance series for teens. Fans of Twilight are sure to relish this book, and the story seems to be tailor made to appeal to that target audience. As an editor for teen books, it is clear that the author knows what “works” in this genre, and the novel seems to have all the necessary elements: a beautiful but naïve heroine, a love triangle involving two sexy guys, the paranormal twist, and a sizable cliffhanger to keep readers longing for the sequel. There is very little new material in the novel, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. Readers are sure to enjoy the dynamics between Asher and Devin, and how Skye finds herself falling for them both for different reasons. The Colorado setting is also interesting, giving the novel an icy, wintery tone. Skye’s friends, particularly Cassie, are also likable support characters, as is her loving adoptive mother, Jo. Overall, A Beautiful Dark doesn’t break through any walls, but does make for an entertaining read that many tweens and teens are certain to swoon over. The second installment in the series, A Fractured Light, is set to be released on September 25, 2012.
One of the most telling things for me about this novel was how the author describes herself as a lover of all things angsty on the book jacket. That is exactly the word I would choose to describe the overall tone of the novel: angsty. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, however. I think the right level of angst can make for a good story, and Jocelyn Davies does a good job of keeping the angst, for the most part, at a manageable and enjoyable level. I think the whole concept of the dark, bad boy vs. the clean-cut, good guy is a classic, and I liked how it was used in this novel. I thought the mix of romance and paranormal was well done, and I especially enjoyed the support characters and the attention the author put into developing them sufficiently. I would definitely recommend this book to Twilight fans and could see many 13 to 16-year-olds relishing Skye’s “dilemma” in having to choose between two chiseled hotties. I plan to read the sequel. (less)
After returning from her whirlwind adventure in India, Kelsey decides to push aside her feelings of love and confusion for Ren and focus on college and dating other people. Mr. Kadam has arranged for Kelsey to attend Western Oregon University in the fall, paying for her tuition, books, a house to live in and a new car. Kelsey tries dating other people, even having a connection with her martial arts instructor, Li, but she can't seem to shake memories of the white tiger from her mind. When Ren suddenly joins her in Oregon, Kelsey realizes that their love for eachother is too strong to be ignored and the two began dating once more while both attending college in Oregon. Their happiness is interrupted when, following the arrival of Ren's brother, Kishan, the trio learns that the evil Lokesh, the very same man who curse the princes to live as tigers, is on a quest to find Kelsey at all costs, and is getting closer. It seems that Kelsey will have no choice but to leave Oregon once more and return to India in search of another key in the puzzle of saving the brothers from the tiger's curse.
This second installment in Houck's Tiger's Curse series delivers more adventure, romance and mythology in the same vein as the first novel. Kelsey's confusion over her feelings for Ren and her attempts at dating will resonate with readers who have experienced similar situations. Houck creates a very likable character in Li, the martial arts instructor who likes Kelsey despite her obvious preoccupation with someone else. When Ren arrives in Oregon, the dynamics between the two shift setting the stage for what will surely be an epic romance that will last through all seven books (Houck revealed in an interview that there are seven planned installments in this series.) The book takes a dramatic shift when Kelsey returns to India and must team up with Kishan to complete the next step in reversing the tiger's curse. Kishan and Kelsey also have strong romantic feelings for eachother, adding a Twilight¬¬¬-esque love triangle to the story. Their adventures get a little silly at times, but readers will, no doubt, enjoy the sexual tension between Kelsey and the black tiger. Overall, a good second novel in an interesting series.
Like the first book in the series, there were some things I liked about this book and some things I didn't like. As a native Oregonian, I thought the references to the state were fun but a bit overkill at times. I commend Houck for advertising her home state, but not many people know or care much for specific details about Oregon trivia (i.e. Burgerville, restaurants in Salem, Tillamook, etc. I also thought the adventures of Kelsey and Kishan began to veer into the goofy at times (i.e. magical scarves, trees giving birth to fairy-like creatures, lightning bolt powers, etc.) When it is all said and done, however, I will most likely be picking up the third installment in this series due for release in November 2011. Despite its flaws, there is something enjoyable about the characters and adventures in this series.
Twelve-year-old Rex Grammaticus lives a happy life with his father, Ambrose, a renowned inventor in the lakeside town of Oppum Oppidulum. When a mysterious woman, Acantha, seduces Ambrose into marrying her, however, Rex is sure that things are going to take a turn for the worse. Rex’s fears are realized when one fateful evening, his father suddenly suffers from a fit of madness, viciously attacking Rex and even cutting off his own hand. Ambrose is committed to the Droprock Island Asylum for the Peculiar and Bizarre, with the help of Acantha’s good friend and superintendent of the asylum, Cadmus Chapelizod, and his business and fortune are left entirely in Acantha’s care. Rex is certain that his stepmother is responsible for Ambrose’s insanity, and vows to free his father from the torturous asylum.
The latest novel in F.E. Higgins’ series for tweens is described as a “polyquel” to the other books, meaning that it can as easily be read as a stand-alone in addition to having some overlap with the other stories. Familiarity with Higgins’ other novels, however, does not determine whether the highly creepy Lunatic’s Curse can be enjoyed by readers: anyone with a slight penchant for the macabre will find this book to be deliciously gruesome and utterly entertaining. From the first pages, the author plunges the reader headfirst into the world of Oppum Oppidulum, a seemingly peaceful lakeside town with more than its fair share of deep, dark secrets. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the story is the care that Higgins takes in creating the setting and characters. Each has their own unique back-story and is given the opportunity for development, even if they have only minor roles in the plot. This technique immerses the reader in world of the novel, making the story far more engaging. The storyline is also very creative and unique, and Rex Grammaticus is a very likable protagonist. As a side note, squeamish readers should be aware that Higgins does venture into some fairly dark territory, from murder to torture, and even a dash of cannibalism. These elements are not overpowering, however, and Lunatic’s Curse is not only appropriate for tweens and teens, but thoroughly enjoyable as well (especially for reluctant boy readers!)
I was a little concerned about picking this title up at first because I haven’t read the other novels in the series, but since it states clearly in the book jacket that it can be read individually I went ahead and gave it a try. I am glad that I did! As a fan of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, I found myself really enjoying Higgins’ macabre story as much if not more than Lemony Snicket’s novels. I like that Higgins doesn’t “talk-down” to the reader, and uses words and phrases that will make them think. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who wants something creepy, and think it has a perfect place in the middle-school classroom for reluctant readers. (less)
After her parents are killed in a tragic accident, Emerson Cole's ability to cope with the grief of her loss is seriously hampered by visions of people that aren't real; people clearly from the past, who disappear as soon as she touches them. Emerson isn't sure if what she's seeing are ghosts or if she's simply nuts, but she soon finds herself in hospital psych ward before moving to Sedona, Arizona to attend a boarding school. Now Emerson is seventeen and determined to move back to her home in Nashville to spend her senior year living with her brother, Thomas, his kind wife, Dru, attend high school with her lifelong friend, Lily. Emerson continues to see her visions, troubling Thomas and Dru, who hire Michael Weaver, a mysterious employee of a company known only as Hourglass, to help her. Michael is handsome, intelligent and barely older than Emerson. She soon discovers that Michael knows all about her "gift" and that she is, in fact, seeing time ripples, or "rips," visions of the past that indicate she is a time traveler herself. Emerson is comforted realizing that she is not delusional, but when Michael asks for her help in preventing an untimely death four months earlier, she begins to wonder if she'd rather be simply crazy than have the ability to travel through time.
McEntire's first novel brings a slow but promising start to a new series that is reminiscent of others with a few twists. Time travel is always a popular topic in young adult novels, and McEntire's take on the concept (i.e. exotic matter, bridges, time ripples, time travel genes, etc.) makes for a series with potential. Unfortunately, this potential is somewhat hampered by some timing issues (things take a while to get going), some cliché characters, and an ambiguous "bad guy." Emerson herself is an interesting protagonist, with a rocky history but a lot of heart and sass. Michael is a somewhat one-dimensional "hottie" who only becomes likeably well into the book. The end result is a predictable but still pleasing romance between the two that McEntire will surely expand in later installments of the series. The most interesting characters in Hourglass are, unfortunately, on the sidelines. Michael's sexy friend Kaleb is far more intriguing than the leading man, as is Jack, the handsome and mysterious figure who keeps appearing in Emerson's room, making her doubt that he is just another one of her visions. Overall, the story gets a bit muddled in the middle chapters, but picks up quite a bit at the end, giving hope for a good adventure in the following installments.
I had high hopes for this book, and still do for this series, even though I didn't completely enjoy the story. I think McEntire did an excellent job of describing the setting of the novel and Emerson herself, but fell short with Michael. He is clearly the leading man and his impending romance with Emerson is obvious from the start, but he is rather one-dimensional for much of the novel. The end of the book, however, makes me believe that the sequel holds a lot of promise and I look forward to reading it when it is released next year.