Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lies Beneath

Lies Beneath  by Anne Greenwood Brown 
Delacorte Press  2012

“ I hadn’t killed anyone all winter, and I have to say I felt pretty good about that.” 

GREAT first line!  Calder is a merman, with three mermaid sisters- all very real monsters who feed off the happiness that exudes as an aura on others.  Unfortunately, these innocent swimmers are killed in the process. 

Calder's family is out to avenge their mother who was snared in a fisherman’s net after failing to acquire the son demanded as retribution for saving the father.  Yes, confusing.   In the mer-world, a promise is all-important. 

With many twists and turns, Calder and his sisters pursue the father and the family, now grown with daughters of their own.  In the midst of revenge, Calder falls in love with Lily, the sixteen year old daughter, and the world changes.

This is not Disney’s Ariel.  These are killers, exacting revenge in a blood oath.  Somewhat reminiscent of vampires, these mer-folk pull all readers under in a trance turning to terror.  The killer (pun intended) ending leads to the sequel that we knew (hoped?) was coming-
but not until March 2013.

Kissing; some violence  13 up.

There Is No Dog

There is No Dog  by Meg Rosoff
Putnam 2011

When philosophers have theorized about God, whether man was created in God’s image or what that entity could look like, they never saw God as a horny teenager--a teen who loves junk food and is constantly pouting. 

Yet, this is Bob, who created the heavens and the earth and all its species.  And then forgets it, allowing wars and natural disasters just through a normal teen’s thoughtlessness.  And who has constantly fallen “in love.” Some of the love interests, mentioned in passing, were taken from the Greek gods and therefore recognizable.

Now meet Lucy, a zoo worker who Bob has newly discovered.  A no-nonsense kind of girl who loves her job, Lucy has little time for Bob when she meets him, and although drawn to him in a way she can’t understand, initially rejects him.  As Bob is upset, so are the natural forces on earth, and we experience torrential rains, floods, mixed with inexplicable days of gorgeous sun when Bob is more hopeful.

Since the job of being God was won in a poker game, Bob now needs an assistant.  Mr. B.  does all the mundane tasks of “the job,” such as answering prayers and taking care of Bob, whom he sees as “devoid of discipline, compassion and emotional depth.  Foresight…the boy was obviously thick as a divot, and if there hadn’t been a push from someone with a bit of influence, he’d still be out in the middle of the great galactic nothingness sleeping, probably, or picking his nose.”

 That pretty much sums up all the characters in the novel. Even Mr. B’s constant complaining becomes tiresome.  When Estelle, a goddess, begins planning to change things, the plan is fuzzy and does not draw our attention.  Funny, even laugh out loud funny at times, at times very irreverent, but ultimately forgettable. 

We will not “stay up all night worrying about the existence of dog.”

When You Were Mine

When you were mine  by Rebecca Serle 
Simon Pulse 2012

Rosie (Rosalind) Caplet and her best friends  Olivia and Charlie (Charlotte) are entering their senior year.  They are rich, spoiled, and ready to be on top of the school social strata.  In addition, Rosie knows that she and Rob Monteg will finally become more than just

Rob does return from summer camp to tell Rosie that he too feels they were meant to be- that is, until her cousin Juliet arrives and so easily captivates Rob.  This is the part where I ask if the story seems familiar; but it doesn’t.  The story is purported to be a retelling of Romeo (“Monteg”) and Juliet (“Caplet”), told from the point of view of Rosalind Caplet. As we look for the references that link this with the Shakespearian story, we find that we have little in common with these rich, spoiled Southern California kids.  We do look forward to seeing the ever-in-trouble Len, who lends comic relief and a quirky personality (personality being the factor lacking in the other two-dimensional characters).

The idea of using Rosalind as the narrator is a nice plot device, and Rose evolves in the second half as a character we can care about, even though she rambles on and on when she is remembering some incident(s) from childhood (filler for the author?)

The mystery of the family estrangement adds an interesting dimension.   A quick, light, summer read with a little romance thrown in.

Kissing; references to suicide; 12 up.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ready Player One

Ready Player One  by Ernest Cline

The year is 2044 and 18-year-old Wade Watts, like almost everyone else in the world, regularly escapes from grim reality to spend most of his waking time in OASIS, the online community that has grown up from early beginnings as a network of online video simulation games.  Wade is a "gunter", a game player dedicated to locating the elusive "Easter Egg" hidden somewhere in the nearly-infinite OASIS.  The creator of OASIS was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980's, and left hundreds of clues for gunters hidden within 1980's movies, books, music, television shows and even commercials  The first to find the Egg will inherit a fortune in cash and controlling interest in the OASIS.  Unfortunately, there are some unscrupulous bad guys who don't mind cheating--or even killing--to win the Egg.

Anyone who has ever gotten immersed in a book, a movie, a video game, or a face-to-face session of Dungeons and Dragons will relate to Wade's experience in OASIS.  Anyone who can recite the entire script of Monty Python and the Holy Grail,  knows every line ever spoken on Star Trek (original series and/or any of the prequel/sequel/spin-off series), played PacMan or Joust for uncounted hours, or who ever rolled for damage to an imaginary monster will revel in the retro-geekiness of the narrative.  Anyone who wants a fun, action-filled dystopian adventure is advised to hide this book from family members who might grab it for themselves and demand a roll of the dice to determine ownership (as happened to this reviewer).

Comic book violence and some off-stage "real world" violence, cussing, and two paragraphs of non-graphic virtual sex with an ultimately unsatisfactory anatomically-correct haptic doll, plus some awesome friendships and a sweet romance.

Highly recommended for readers ages 14 to adult, maybe especially for adults who were teens in the 1980's...but since this book was given to me by a 16-year-old boy, I must recommend it also for those who weren't even a naughty notion in the 1980's.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses

Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses  by Ron Koertge
illustrated by Andrea Dezso

...For a while, the queen is content.  There's the baby
with skin like snow and the golden goblets
and the pomegranate juice and the rocking
and the cooing.  But there's always that small fire
just under her collarbone.

She summons the hunters, hard men with callused hands.
She asks, "Isn't there a wolf in the forest with teeth
the better to eat me with?"
"Indeed there is, your majesty, but--"
"No buts.  Have someone fetch my red cape.
And tell the king not to wait up."

The little match girl sells CDs on the corner, fifty cents to any stoner/any homeboy with a boner.   The Beast muses that he and Beauty are very happy now, but that sometimes he brushes his perfect teeth and remembers when they were fangs. And Bluebeard's wife agrees that her husband is weird...but omigod that castle!

Twenty three familiar stories.  Folktales originally collected and retold by the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault and Hans Christian Anderson are collected and retold again by Ron Koertge...and this time, the stories are tilted a little differently.  

Strong, sexy, sassy, violent, warped, and more than slightly kinky, these tales-in-verse are not the Disney version.  There isn't always "happy", but without doubt, these versions will stick with the reader "forever after." 

With the new attention being given to old tales on television programs like Grimm and Once Upon a Time, this slender volume of fractured tales and striking illustrations will easily find an audience.  Recommended for readers 14 to adult.

Minor cussing, sexual imagery and sexual situations, references to violence...just like the original folktales from which they were derived.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Hooked  by Catherine Greenman

Thea considers herself savvy and spunky, but she throws all that away when she starts dating Will, who "hooks" her with his good looks and charm.  Their love is strong, the sex is fantastic...and then, Thea gets pregnant.  The early-abortion plan (endorsed by parents, friends, and Will) is abandoned when Thea discovers that she loves her unborn child too much for abortion or adoption.  Plan #2 centers on everyone supporting Thea and baby Ian (and Will too), physically, emotionally and financially.  There is a bit of squeaking about this, but eventually, everyone falls in line because they love Thea and the baby is adorable.   Thea's plans for the future include spending more time with her formerly-estranged dad, making bundles of money by designing the latest crochet fashion merchendise, and eventually getting back together with Will.

Realistic?  Uh, no. 

Maybe that's how folks do things in The Big City, but in my small town, parents of unwed parents don't hand over $10,000 (each!) as starter money on top of the rent-controlled apartment they finance for the teens and little Ian.  Thea's narrative voice rescues this story from the round file:  she is spunky, and she stands up for the ideas and the people she values, including herself. 

Not a first purchase, but don't overlook this title if budgets can support it.  There is on-page (but not graphic) sex, minor cussing, and some underage drinking, but nowhere near as gratuitous as Gossip Girl and that ilk.  Ages 14 and up.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Between  by Jessica Warman
When pretty, popular, wealthy Elizabeth Valchar wakes up on the morning of her 18th birthday, she's dead.

Nobody knows exactly what happened, including Liz herself, who is stuck "between" life and death, haunting her hometown, her friends and her family, seeking answers.  The only person who can see Liz is Alex...and he's dead too.

The narrative gradually unwinds clue after tiny clue, drawing the reader deeper into the complex life of a pretty girl who apparently had it all.  Liz is not a sympathetic character, especially at first.  Yet, as the story delves deeper into the past, Liz  learns that her life was not as perfect as she thought it was...and that her accidental death on the family yacht might not have been an accident.

The mystery is not perfect--astute readers will figure out the connection between Liz and Alex long before Liz understands it--and there are a few plot holes.  However, the storytelling itself is entrancing.  

Mild cussing, sexual situations, underage drinking and drug use.  Recommended for readers 14 to adult. 

This is Aarene's review.  To review Mary Jo's review of Between, click HERE.

A fun sex-in-the-library music video, NOTsafe for work!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Between  by Jessica Warman

Elizabeth Valchar is one of the1%.  She is very wealthy, has a great rich boyfriend, and of course, she's very popular.  She even has her 18th birthday party on the family’s yacht, waking up after midnight having
had too much alcohol and marijuana.  As she stumbles around the deck to identify the source of the noise that woke her, Liz notices a dead body floating in the water...wearing the clothes she now has on; with
the hugely expensive boots she had to have. 

The only person who can see and talk to her is Alex, a kid from her class who died a year ago.   Liz doesn’t remember much of the last year of her life, let alone the last night of her life.  Thus begins Liz and Alex’ journey to discover who they really are as events materialize surrounding both deaths.

While a few of the characters are two dimensional, there is much to discover (and develop opinions) about Liz’s friends. The novel veers close to being “Peyton Place,” but there is also a depth of character that brings us closer to understanding the individuals, and exposes our own reader prejudices even as stereotypes of Liz and her friends are exposed.

Kissing; sexual situations; some violence.  13 up.

This is Mary Jo's review.  To review Aarene's review of Between, click HERE.