Saturday, June 17, 2017

Illuminae : the Illuminae Files_01



Illuminae  by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Breaking up was hard enough for Kady and Ezra.  Then their planet got bombed by a hostile corporation.

Rescued by separate ships, Kady and Ezra stay in touch, kinda.  But when one of the other rescue ships is destroyed by the rescue ship Ezra is on, there is clearly a problem, and it's possible that only Kady can solve it.

A crazed artificial intelligence that makes HAL 9000 look like a Teletubby.  A virus that is turning some of the survivors (and some of the crew) into zombies.  And that hostile corporation ship still in pursuit.  

What could possibly go wrong?

This isn't the greatest book I've read this year, but it's certainly the don't-put-downablest book I've read in a long time.  The audiobook is produced with a full cast, and perfectly captures the suspense.

No sex (a few vague references to "the time we..." but no details).  LOTS of violence and blood and gore (zombies!).  All the swear words are bleeped, even in the audiobook.  As the introduction to the book says, "...the story kicks off with the deaths of thousands of people, but god forbid there be cussing in it..."

Recommended for ages 12 to adult.  The story may be too intense for young or sensitive readers. 


Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Pearl Thief


The Pearl Thief  by Elizabeth Wein

15 year old Julia Beaufort-Stuart knows that her life is about to change in many ways:  the family estate has been sold to pay debts.  This will be the family's last summer spent at the old castle--and they will be surrounded by workers and strangers busily changing over the traditional home into a boarding school.

Even so, Julie never expected to get banged on the head and left for dead by the side of the river.

Part coming-of-age story, part murder mystery, part historical tale, part exploration of the culture of Scottish Travellers ("gypsies" is an impolite term), this book is a page turner from beginning to end.  It is also, astute readers will note, a prequel to this author's award-winning Code Name Verity, and many of the scenes in Pearl Thief add light to scenes and situations in the other book.  

Highly, highly recommended.  I am perishing to hear the audio version.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Star-Crossed


Star-Crossed  by Barbara Dee

12-year-old Mattie is thrilled when her 8th grade class mounts a production of "Romeo and Juliet" but things get complicated when the handsome boy in the leading role ducks out of the play...leaving Mattie to play the part of Romeo, opposite the beautiful Gemma as Juliet. 

Gemma, whom Mattie...likes.  Like, a lot.

Mattie has a lot of questions about her crush on Gemma, and nobody around her gives her the answers.  

However, several people--including her best friends, her older sister, a sympathetic teacher, and even Gemma herself--allow Mattie the freedom to explore some answers for herself.  That is what makes this gentle little story so nice.

I learned about this book when the author wrote about a terrible experience booktalking in a school where she was asked to refer to the book only in general terms.  In other words: avoid talking about the book.  Even when asked direct questions about it.

As often happens, censoring a book sometimes inspires people to seek that book out.  

That's how it worked with me, anyhow.

Having read the book, I've got to say:  

It's a great book.  And I plan to talk about it.  A lot.  In schools.  To students.

With positive reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus as well as the sexy librarians here at Sex in the Library, you know that although "Romeo and Juliet" was a tragedy, Star Crossed definitely isn't. 

Highly recommended for middle-grade readers, ages 10 and up.


Monday, March 6, 2017

The Smell of Other People's Houses



The Smell of Other People's Houses  by Bonnie Sue Hitchcock

Before Alaska became a state, Ruth has a loving family.  When her father is killed in an accident, she goes to live with her very harsh and disapproving grandmother.  This story brings in four teens as voices in various chapters who all make difficult choices.  

Harsh is the life that these teens live.  Courage is their choice, and they make it with intensity.  One of the teens in an Inupiat Indian living with an Athabascan family.  All of the stories wrap around and into each other as the characters interact.  This slight book describes a time and population rarely seen in teen literature.

And the smells!  Rich writing brings the odors and sounds into your senses.

Recommended 12 up

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Every Breath


Every Breath  by Ellie Marney  (Every #1)

Rachel Watts has recently moved with her family from their failed farm in the country to a crowded house in Melbourne.  She misses the farm and the quiet of the land.  But soon, she is drawn into friendship--and more--with genius-boy James Mycroft who lives down the street.  Together the teens research obscure crime-solving strategies and write essays for the "Diogenes" website.

Allusions to Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson abound, especially when the teens discover that their friend, known only as "Homeless Dave," may have been murdered...after he was dead.  And, as in the famous story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the key to the crime may lie with a dog that didn't bark.

Nice world-building, excellent characters, and great action sequences (especially in the second half of the book).  The romance between Mycroft and Watts bubbles quietly at first and is certain to boil over soon--the steamy kisses on the page are definitely only the beginning of the physical side to their relationship.  Australian slang may boggle some readers.

An Australian "Hills Hoist" sounds more ominous than it actually is.

This is a great introduction to a fun new series.  I look forward to volume 2!




Monday, January 9, 2017

Dumplin'



Dumplin'  by Julie Murphy

Willowdean Dickson isn't what most people would call "beauty pageant material."  Certainly Willowdean herself never considered entering her hometown's biggest social event of the year, even though her own mother is a former Clover City Miss Teen Blue Bonnet and is now the chair of the event.

Because Willowdean is fat.  

She knows it.  It's obvious.  She's tried dieting in the past, but is now mostly comfortable with her body...but not always.  And when the hot-hot-hottie guy at work kisses her, the discomfort level goes way up.

It's a long road between "no-way, no-how" and "go big or go home" and yet Willowdean and her friends take the journey towards the coveted rhinestone crown.  And although they face some cringeworthy moments, the girls encounter some triumphant times along the way.  

This is a book about body image, Dolly Parton, and friendship.  There's a romance (and a bit of a romantic triangle), but the focus of the story is on Willowdean's relationship with her longtime best friend Ellen and her new friends Amanda, Millie and Hannah.  

And, just so you know:  the story doesn't end the way you think it will.

Recommended for readers 14 to adult.  All sexual situations are off-stage but the kissing is front and center.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

What Light

What Light by Jay Asher

At sixteen, Sierra is looking forward to spending Christmas in California again.  Her parents own a Christmas tree farm in Oregon, and every year before Thanksgiving, they follow the trees to LA to sell the trees on their lot.  She loves Oregon and her two best friends there, but also loves California and her best friend there.  Unfortunately, she knows this might be the last year: independent tree lots are becoming fewer, and the business might go bust.

Then she meets Caleb, a boy with a past filled with rumors and a very violent incident.

This feel-good Christmas story is just right for a Hallmark special.  Sierra’s own parents met at sixteen on this same tree lot.  Can’t Sierra have a happy-ever-after romance too?  Evidently she can.  And it IS Christmas.

Missing from the story is all the pith and conversation you experienced with Thirteen Reasons Why, for example.  There is little conflict.  When Sierra’s parents find out about Caleb’s past, they allow her to decide that he is not really a violent character.  The violent incident included a knife he pounded into his sister’s bedroom door.  The “trust” issue should skid to a halt with violence when it comes to parents dealing with sixteen-year-old dating.  Caleb never receives counseling, never is violent toward anyone again; in fact, he philosophically accepts all the abuse his friends and family heap on him.  But again, it’s Christmas.  The Light shines.

Sierra’s friends in Oregon want her home for a drama production where one of her best friends is suddenly the star.  “Just take a train,” they indicate.  While it doesn’t say where in California Sierra is, the northernmost city, Redding, (where there are lots of trees….) is over 19 hours to Portland.  Not very realistic, and causes a huge rift when Sierra decides not to go.

It is tough to recommend this book because of the possible dating violence when Caleb has never received any help, “Christmas season” and “redemption” aside.