Monday, December 30, 2013

Spirit and Dust

Spirit and Dust  by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Teen psychic Daisy Goodnight works with local police and the FBI to solve murder cases.  Her talent for speaking with the dead is deemed "useful" even if the evidence she uncovers is not admissible in court.  But when the dead bodyguard she interviews gives her more questions and no answers, and the trail to a kidnapped girl leads to the Egyptology exhibit Chicago's Field Museum, Daisy learns that being a kick-ass psychic detective might be a lot more dangerous than she originally thought.

Ghosts, witches, magic, a jackel-headed god, and a tyrannosaurus rex, plus a hot young FBI agent and a good-looking son of the Mob, combined with fast-talking, smirky dialogue. Think "The Mummy" meets "Indiana Jones" and you won't be far off.

Action, adventure, some bloodshed, some death, and a few steamy kisses.  Although this is a sequel to Texas Gothic, the story stands alone well--and begs for a sequel!

Recommended for readers ages 14 to adult.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Boston Jacky

Boston Jacky: being an account of the further adventures of Jacky Faber, taking care of business   by L.A. Meyer
audiobook read by Katherine Kellgren

That rascal Jacky Faber is back in town--Boston-town, that is.  Her shipping business is nearly broke, her Irish friends are unwelcome, and her true love Jaimy still hasn't returned from an extended stay in the Orient.  Undeterred, Jacky buys the Pig and Whistle Inn to save it from bankruptcy and this raises the ire of the Women's Temperance Union...and her own dearest friend.  

Can Jacky's impulsive nature be tamed before she ends up back in Judge Thwackham's court?

Maybe.  Maybe not.

I'll only give one spoiler: the thing with Jaimy is definitely not untangled in this book.  For more details, you'll have to read it yourself.

Recommended for fans of the series, ages 14 to adult.  Some cussing, some violence (mostly off-page).  As always, the audiobook edition read by Katherine Kellgren is superb.


Lexicon  by Max Barry
audiobook narrated by Heather Corrigan and Zach Appelman

Are you a cat person, or a dog person?
Choose a number between 1 and 100.
What is your favorite color?
Do you love your family?
Why did you do it?

For reasons he (and the reader) do not understand, Wil Parke has been attacked in an airport restroom, asked several nonsensical questions, and then kidnapped at gunpoint by an enigmatic man who calls himself Tom Eliot.

In a time shift, street hustler Emily Ruff is asked the same nonsensical questions and eventually recruited to a mysterious organization that promises to teach her to be more persuasive.

How do these things come together?  


Using a volatile combination of action sequences interspersed with scientific (but never boring!) explanations about brain research and neuro-linguistic programming, the author drags the reader deeply into this deeply violent, disturbing story of modern life and the power of words as weapons.  

This book was included on the 2013 School Library Journal "Best Adult Books 4 Teens" list. It will definitely thrill some teens, but readers are warned that violence and cussing completely saturate the story.

Recommended for readers who can survive the cussing and who enjoy action, suspense, and contemporary dystopic fiction.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Losing It

Losing It.  (short stories)  Keith Gray, ed.

“It hurt.  A lot.  There was a lot of blood too.”   Of course, Keith Gray is talking about being hurt in soccer practice…

With this quick start, Losing it is about just that.  Ten short stories of losing your virginity from some vary famous British authors, including Melvin Burgess, A.S. King, and Patrick Ness.  Jase wants to lose his virginity even if he loses the soccer championship as a result; Emma wonders why she did it;  Finn’s grandmother gives some great advice; Charlie and Ant are just fooling around until the right girl comes along- aren’t they?

At times, the British slang gets in the way, but more often the stories themselves talk around the sex part of the story that teens might well lose interest.  Teens won’t learn anything new here, nor will they gain any new insights, although some stories are quite poignant: The White Towel (Bali Rai,)  a story of not-too-distant India, and Finding It (Anne Fine) from the sex ed teacher’s point of view that teens will shrug off.

In reality, there is very little actual feeling here.  While some stories actually deal with emotion, (Different for Boys, Patrick Ness and Age of Consent,  Jenny Valentine) most are simple stories of wanting sex.  The stories are more “feel good, sweet” stories.  In only two of the stories the act of losing one’s virginity is observable.  In one of those stories, the actual references to sex are black boxed out, creating more in your imagination than there would be if left in the narrative.  The reality of being protected during sex is never taken seriously.  This would have been a stellar opportunity!

Kissing, gay friends, gltbq, masturbation, Star-Trek sex, violence

Of Beast and Beauty

Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

Princess Isra is a “smooth skin.”  One of those living in the city under the dome, away from the desert and the “monstrous: those reptilian-skinned creatures.  Isra is also hiding a secret- she knows she has scaly skin and her royal family is hiding it from the population, because even in the royal domed city, those who are part “monstrous” are kept in a partition.  What is also known is that Isra will someday be the blood sacrifice her people need to feed the magic roses that keep the city intact.

Then Gem, a monstrous, is captured inside the city, trying to capture the magic roses to help the desert people.  As their friendship builds, Isra is challenged to find whether everything she knows is actually true. 

Beautifully told from Isra’s and Gem’s points of view, the reader is left wondering just who the “beast” of the story really is. This unique Beauty and the Beast story is marred only by the Biblical reference that tries to incorporate the Adam and Eve story.

Kissing, religious views, strong female character, violence

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Finny and the Boy from Horse Mountain

Finny and the Boy from Horse Mountain  (ARC)  by Andrea Young

14-year-old Finny loves horses, and works at an elite show-jumping stable in exchange for riding lessons.  When she sees an emaciated horse by the side of the road, she arranges to adopt him (without telling her parents or the stable manager), and dreams of their success together.  However, the horse is huge, untrained, and potentially dangerous.  Can they ever find happiness together?

Yes, of course they can.  

All it will take is a handsome boy who happens to be a horse trainer, a kindly horse rescue lady who happens to be a retired world-class show jumping trainer, and a competent veterinarian who happens to enjoy under-billing kids for treatment and services

Of course there are other impediments to happiness, like the Snobby Rich Girl, the Loving but Neglectful Mom, and the Greedy Uncle straight out of Central Casting.

The first third of the book was fraught with plot and terminology errors.  However, the final two-thirds of the story rose up a bit from the mundane, ending with sweet romance and a thrilling horse race.  Horse-loving readers may roll their eyes at some of the goofs, but they will read to the end and cheer at the finish line.

No cussing, no sex.  Some bullying, some violence, some kissing.  Grades 6 and up.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Teen Spirit

Teen Spirit  by Francesca Lia Block

Julie feels bereft after the death of her beloved grandmother Miriam.  Soon after, she and her mom have to move from their beautiful home in the hills to a benighted apartment on the wrong side of Beverly Hills.  Then, her mom meets a loser guy and seems to forget about Julie.  Then Julie meets Clark...who is haunted by issues of his own.

Usually, Francesca Lia Block can easily pull off a complex plot like this, and fill the story with lush, nuanced details and sensuous descriptions of life and love and death.  

But not this time.  The writing is stilted, the characters lack depth and purpose. The plot is twisty for no apparent reason, the ethnic details seem tacked on, and poorly edited elements (an answering machine?  in 2013?) yank the reader out of the story too often.  A near-miss sexual situation is awkward.

Not particularly recommended.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Just Between Us

Just Between Us  by J. H. Trumble
Luke Chesser is a high school junior and band member.  We met him as a character from Trumble’s book, Don’t Let Me Go.    This is not really a sequel, although the story is richer if you read the earlier book.  In that book, Luke “came out” because of Nate, a senior who was his first relationship and subject of a hate crime.  Luke is still looking for a good relationship and thinks he might find it in Curtis, a college sophomore who is helping the band this summer.  The two are strongly attracted to each other, and Luke is hurt and at a loss when Curtis suddenly rejects him.  

The reader knows (but Luke doesn't know) that Curtis has just been told by a former boyfriend that he has been exposed to the AIDS virus.
Curtis keeps his secret, even after a verifying test, and we all would like to shake some sense into him, because while this is huge and possibly fatal information, we also see that Curtis has a very supportive family who would help if he would let them.  It is true that Curtis has just spent the last year exploring many sexual avenues and now feels guilty, self-destructive, and depressed.  Luke is just too sweet, he thinks.  Curtis needs to face that year again if he is to face the AIDS.  He is also not getting treated.
Luke is meanwhile facing problems with his own family.  His father is not supportive, and in fact cannot seem to fight his homophobic reactions.  In one instance, he hits Luke.  Luke has romanticized his relationships since Don’t Let Me Go.  He is now a year older, and more mature, but still emotionally na├»ve.
There are very few books that cover the fallout and repercussions of HIV, but Trumble does it beautifully, creatively interspersing the story with updated facts you all wanted to ask.  We truly care about Curtis and Luke; when they hurt each other, we hurt too.  That too is done well in only a few YA books.  Certainly in this one.

Recommended ages 15 up.

Picture Me Gone

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

Mila and her father are on their way from London to New York to see her father’s best friend, Matthew.  They had not seen each other for many years.  A phone call from Matthew’s wife alerts them to the fact that he has disappeared.  They decide to go anyway, and show up at the house to see if they can help.

Mila is a rather unusual girl who deeply notices her surroundings.  She sees the picture frame and notices the stance people take and where their arms are placed; she sees the shoes in the corner, not cleaned in years since their son’s death; she notices the items left un-dusted and ponders the reasons why.  

Mila uncovers the love, loss, and deception felt deeply by each of the characters, eventually facing each of these herself.  The relationships of all the other characters weave through the novel in a delightful way.

Mila also texts her best friend in London, whose parents are going through a divorce, and whose relationship with Mila has been a little shaky and distant: very similar to Mila’s father’s relationship to Matthew.

The lack of punctuation is disconcerting.  Rather than enhance the story or character development, it serves to disorient the reader.  Perhaps that was intended. 

Recommended 10 up. 


Butter by Erin Jade Lange

Butter is obese, a boy who expects to be bullied, lonely, and ignored , especially by his father. 

How the “Butter” nickname evolved is a sick story on its own, but at 429 pounds, Butter is now just done. He decides that he is going to eat himself to death- on New Year’s Eve- videoed live on the internet.  

When he posts this idea online, he (and we) are unprepared for the reaction from his classmates:  cheering!  

In an awful twist, Butter becomes the hero of an idea increasingly difficult to stop.  He now has social standing with all the popular kids, invited to parties, sits at their table at lunch, and one step closer to Annie, the girl of his dreams.

Of course, as we understand the real Butter, we become increasingly alarmed and appalled as we watch the train wreck.   Butter began an online relationship with Annie, posing as an anonymous, handsome football player from another school.  What could go wrong there?  

He is an amazing saxophone player, whose sound, according to his teacher, is “smooth as butter.”  He is not alone in the world, either.  He has a great doctor, his mom, and a friend from “fat camp.”  But those are not the kids in his school.

This is a complex look at eating issues, relationships, and high school culture.  There are few two dimensional characters in this book, so the problems are not going to be simple, or even have straightforward solutions. Expect to get involved in Butter’s life.

And if you have read the book- can you remember Butter’s real name?  Did you get sucked into the group that continues/enables/excuses the bullying behavior?  

Or do you remember his name?


Altered by Jennifer Rush

Anna’s father works for a secret lab.  The specimens in the lab are four boys:  Nick, Cas, Trev and Sam.  All have special skills that are being cultivated through drugs and procedures.  All are “enhanced genetic specimens,” (read "great-looking hunks") however, their minds have been wiped clean.   

Because she is bored, Anna helps her father with the tests, but becomes involved with the boys, even sneaking down after hours to talk with them, or play a game of chess.  Eventually, she falls in love with Sam. 

When the Branch arrives with guns ready to take them away, Anna’s father helps the boys escape, but demands they take Anna as well.  Why?  Everyone is baffled about this, but there is no time to talk about it. 

The remainder of the book is the story of runaways, finding clues about their backgrounds and staying away from the Branch, those out to get them.  Then Anna finds secrets from her past: clues about Sam’s past are tattooed on his skin, and they run from safe house to safe house, as Sam remembers bits and pieces.  

The story is a bit scattered, raising more questions than answers, and although the genetic mutation is never fully explained, the plot twists and turns, giving a wild (and crush-worthy) ride.   We gain some understanding by the end of the book, and while there is a LOT to explain, we are not left on a ledge until the sequel.  Although Sam is as hot as any boy-hero, we will need to wait until book two to see if anything is realized between Sam and Anna.

We know that of course, there will be a sequel or more.  Great, because we still do not know the origins of most of the boys!  Maybe January will tell.

Recommended 14 up

This is What Happy Looks Like

This is what Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

“What do you mean?" he asked, his voice hoarse, and she sat up, turning to face him with a serious look. Her green eyes were large and her red hair was tangled from the wind, but she looked beautiful, the kind of beautiful that makes your heart fill like a balloon, so light you worry it might carry you away.

Ellie O’Neill and her mother live in a tiny Maine village, running a kitchy souvenir-type shop, hiding their secret. 

Graham Larkin writes an email about pig-sitting to a friend, accidentally mistyping the address, and ending up meeting Ellie online.  Graham too has a secret.

Ellie and Graham become friends online, but when they meet each other, their secrets threaten to separate them forever.  Graham is actually Graham Larkin, the newest boy star and heart throb to hit the box office. Ellie in no way wants photographers hanging around or taking her picture.

Even after they meet, have problems, become sorta-friends, they continue the emails, which now become pretty funny.  In fact, clever retorts are the name of the game in person too.  Even with the predictable plot, you have to really like both teens.

This incredibly sweet romance will never make it to the Sex in the Library archives, but will be a huge hit in the pre-teen crowd.

Recommended 12 up

Coldest Girl in Coldtown

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

“Every night, in every Coldtown, people die.  People are fragile.  They die of mistakes, of overdoses, of sickness.  But mostly they die of Death.  Death drinks down their warms until their veins are dry.  Death forgets restraint.  The older vampires might grow dusty and careful, but those freshly made want to glut themselves and sometimes, foolishly, they give in to Death and do.”

As the story opens, our heroine, Tana, wakes the morning after a particularly long night of partying…to find everyone dead.  Sucked dry by vampires.  Finally, she finds her friend (and ex boyfriend) Aiden alive, but having been bitten by a vampire, chained to the bed. Another vampire, Gavriel,  is also chained.   

Of course she helps her friend escape, but what about the vampire?  Escape they do, and all head off to the closest “Coldtown,” picking up Midnight and her brother Winter, hitchhiking to Coldtown to become vampires and film the process for their ongoing blog.

This is a dystopia where vampires exist, sometimes admired, sometimes hunted. They are required to stay in “Coldtowns” where vampire parties are televised as the ultimate reality tv:  where vampire “wannabees” place shunts in their arms so they can be used as food.  Killing is often and very bloody.  Humans are attacked; vampires are killed, all in very many violent ways.

The fact that we stay tuned in through all the gore for the end of this mystery says a lot for Holly Black’s gorgeous writing.  That and the romance:  kissing can be so very hot.  Tana is a wonderfully witty and resourceful, if way too  impulsive, heroine.

Vixen (Flappers series)

The Vixen (Flappers series) by Jillian Larkin

Three girls, three spoiled socialites, one very restrictive era.

Gloria, seventeen, wealthy, engaged to wealthy, sexy Sebastian.  She seems to have it all.  But of course she doesn’t.  From seeking out speakeasies to falling in love with a Black jazz player, Gloria becomes the stereotype of the independent flapper without regard for consequences.

Lorraine, best friend of Gloria would do just about anything to have Marcus pay attention to her, but he only has eyes for Clara.  What is a woman without a man?  Booze becomes Lorraine’s best friend.

Clara, Gloria’s cousin is sent to Chicago after an unmentionable scandal. As a former very accomplished flapper, she now has to play the “country bumpkin” cousin.  

Of course the mob controls the speakeasy nightclubs, and graft and corruption abound. Especially with people you would not suspect.  Isn’t that always the case?  

The era comes alive, and the feeling of being trapped abounds, not only for the girls, but also with the musicians, the nightclub owners, the people who need to stay in high society, even the younger mobsters!  Freedom is not independence.  

This is a fast and fun read with some historical understanding.  Secrets and intrigue and booze and mobsters.  And some very real growing up.

One minor pique:  the clothes here are highlighted often, which makes the cover a bit off.  With every other attention to details of the 1920s, this is odd.

Anatomy of a Single Girl

Anatomy of a Single Girl by Daria Snadowsky

I always knew I wanted my first time to be with someone I loved and who loved me, which it was…. But shouldn’t I want that for every time?

Dom (Dominique) returns the summer after her first year in college.  She has had a bad break up with the boyfriend she thought would be forever.  Her first love, first kiss, first sexual experience, and now first breakup. (Anatomy of a boyfriend, 2008)  Then she meets a handsome guy- named, appropriately enough, Guy. He wants no part of romance, but does want sex.  Duh.  Dom is sure that she wants the whole romantic love thing, but sex is fun too.  Duh again.  What this book really is, is a treatise on safe sex.  

Before Dom, a pre-med student, will agree to the “friends with (lots) of benefits thing, she wants to be sure they are both following the right rules.  It’s pretty one-sided:  Dom tells Guy all the requirements, and he agrees.  We don’t see enough discussions of safe sex in teen lit, but this is pretty clinical - like Snadowsky was trying too hard to get the information out.  Because it’s couched in Dom’s pre-med background, it is understandable within the plot.  Will it be ignored because it is so dry and one-sided?

There are other parts that help get the book through its tough times:  Dom’s feelings ring true as an eighteen-year-old, just out of first year college.  She alternately loves her parents (she declares that she won the parent lottery) and hates her parents being too restrictive.  Her best friend Amy is fun and believable.   There is a nice balance between wanting to be a little girl, and wanting to grow up, and lots of frank talk about sex.  

Dom’s parents are a hoot.  Even Guy is not entirely one-sided.  He does care for Dom, and he is honest about just wanting sex, not a relationship.  Perhaps he shares a few too many sexual positions with Dom, or maybe just the reader?  This is not meant to be a sex manual, but it comes close at times.

But really, as Dom says, shouldn’t ALL her sexual experience be with someone she loves and loves her? 

Wolf Gift

The Wolf Gift Ann Rice

Gothic novel?  Philosophical novel?  Neither, actually.

Originally, we hoped this might be an adult for YA novel.  Not so. 

Cub reporter and really wealthy aristocrat, Reuben Golding, is doing a story on the Mendocino mansion of wealthy aristocrat Marchent Nideck, who must now sell the estate.  Reuben falls in love with the estate and, after a one-night stand, falls in love with Marchent, who deeds him the entire estate (and pays the first year’s taxes) after one hot night.  However, later that same night, Marchent’s two druggie brothers break in, killing her and nearly killing Reuben.  He is saved by what he thinks is a large dog, who kills the brothers but merely bites him.  

It doesn’t take a deep thinker to figure out that Reuben was bitten by a werewolf.  In fact, there were of course, many allusions to wolves already, and you did get the title, right?  But it takes a loooong time to get the reader to the point where Reuben understands.  

This purports to be a philosophical/spiritual novel, and his brother, the catholic priest, does bring some religion into the mix, and whole chapters are devoted to the writings of Dejardin.  Whole chapters also become filler, (do we need to know what is in the salad or how many times to toss it?) in fact, with Reuben’s musings on being a wolf and being able to discern the scent of evil.  If you didn’t get his thoughts the first time, not to worry, he will repeat them three or four times.
As a philosophical novel, this fell flat.  The mixture of Roman Catholicism didn’t really mix with the werewolves’ penchant for playing God, and the discussions of pure philosophy were restated too many times. The sexual exploitations felt like titillation, not an important plot line.  The constant rain in San Francisco and Mendocino did not even ring true, although the lush descriptions of the Mendocino coast were a treat.

Rice puts most of the werewolf information in the last chapter, making it anti-climatic and obviously setting this as a series. 
Random House published the audio book, aptly read by Ron McLarty.  Feel free to sleep through whole chapters on salad making or the third time you hear the philosophical DeJardin discussions…

Monday, November 4, 2013


Scarlet by Marissa Meyer  (Lunar Chronicles, part 2)

In the second volume of this futuristic fairy tale retelling, Scarlet, a spunky French farm girl in a red hoodie, is frantically searching for her grandmother.  Was Grand-mere kidnapped?  Or worse?  

Scarlet reluctantly accepts the help of Wolf, a tattooed street fighter.  But Wolf has some secrets he prefers not to share with Scarlet.  

And speaking of secrets, apparently Grand-mere had a few of her own...secrets about a missing princess now known as Cinder.

Fairy tale, science fiction, political intrigue, and romance intertwine to create a fast-moving narrative and leave readers eager for the next volume:Cress, the story of a long-haired girl who has been kept isolated on a satellite since childhood, is scheduled for publication in February 2014.

Recommended for readers ages 12 to adult.  Minimal cussing, some violence, some blood, some tactful off-page canoodling.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Dream Thieves

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
(book II of the Raven Cycle)

Continuing the story begun in The Raven Boys, the ley line has been awakened and now strange currents are racing through town.  Electrical surges, astonishing secrets, and weird dreams and nightmares are becoming more common.  In the middle of the magic are Blue, who is still not-quite-a-psychic, and the Raven Boys: Gansey, Adam, Ronan and Noah.

The hunt for the mysterious Welsh king continues, but the focus now is on Ronan's sudden strange ability to pull real objects out of dreams.  And, perhaps, out of nightmares.

This book does not stand alone, and leaves readers gasping for the two final books...which don't even have release dates from the publisher yet!  Ack.

The lush, imaginative writing should be no surprise to fans of this author.  But the plot twists!  If those don't surprise readers, there is truly no hope for redemption.  I am eagerly awaiting the audiobook edition, which early reports call "suspenseful" and "murky."  

No sex, no kissing (there's a reason!  not a lack of interest!) and only mild cussing, but plenty of action, magic and some scary violence and drug use. 

Recommended for readers who have already survived the first book, ages 14 to adult.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane  by Neil Gaiman

An unnamed adult narrator has returned to his Sussex hometown for a funeral, and afterwards drives around randomly...until he arrives at the home of his childhood neighbors. There, he is welcomed in by an elderly woman he recognizes, and he gradually remembers the events that occurred just after his 7th birthday, when he was drawn into a terrible adventure with weird creatures and splendid magic.

This is the author's first adult book since Anansi Boys (2005), and his storytelling skills have grown ever-stronger in the meantime.  Mythology, folklore, and motifs drawn from heroic tradition are seamlessly bound together to create a fabulous, eerie story that is familiar and yet completely fresh.   

Gaiman skillfully treads the line between "terror" and "creepy."  Although this reader is a self-acclaimed chicken-pants, I found The Ocean at the End of the Lane deliciously nightmarish without ever becoming gross; hair-raising but not horrible.  Still, very young and very timid readers are warned:  this story is scary.  

The audiobook read by the author is even better than the print version.  A word of caution: perhaps you should not listen to it while driving home alone in the dark.  (Ask me how I know.)

Recommended for brave readers and listeners, ages 14 to adult.  Minimal cussing, some sexual situations between adult characters, some blood and plenty of scary stuff.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

100 Questions You'd Never Ask Your Parents

100 Questions You'd Never Ask Your Parents : straight answers to teens' questions about sex, sexuality and health  by Elizabeth Henderson & Nancy Armstrong, MD

When I have sex for the first time, will people be able to tell?
How old do I have to be to buy condoms?
What is the best birth control?
Does alcohol really kill brain cells?

These, and 96 other common questions are answered in simple, straightforward language. The questions are arranged in a random fashion (perhaps from most-frequently to less-frequently asked?), and the answers are succinct and factual--most Q/A entries are dealt with on a single page, with no fancy color formatting, no sidebars and no illustrations of any kind.

Most questions are related to sex and sexuality, but topics also include drug and alcohol use, suicidal thoughts, and friendships.  The "hot" topics of homosexuality, birth control (including abstinence, condom use and pills), and pregnancy are each addressed several times, but the topic of abortion remains untouched by this book.  Not all the responses are complete--it's notable that Planned Parenthood is not mentioned anywhere in the text or index, despite that agency's importance in the field of teen sexual health issues nationwide.

Index and glossary of terms are included. A list of additional resources, books, websites and governmental agencies would have been helpful, but was not included.

To Be Perfectly Honest : a novel based on an untrue story  by Sonya Sones

How can you tell
if Colette is lying?

Her mouth
is open.

Colette is a truly unreliable narrator.  She continually lies (she likes to call it "reimagining reality") to make her life seem more interesting...and to annoy her movie-star mother, who rarely pays attention to Colette and her little brother Will.

When Colette's summer plans change from "Paris with friends" to "San Luis Obispo with mom and Will and Mom's new co-star," she gets mad...and the lies start to stack up.  

In the middle of this comes Connor, Colette's first real boyfriend.  If only she could stop lying to him!  

HERE AT LAST is a book with a believable main character who actually says "NO, I don't want to have sex with you (yet) and sticks to her decision throughout the book.  Not because she isn't attracted to Connor--she is.  But because she really doesn't feel ready for sex.  

Connor is not prepared to accept "no" as a final answer from Colette...and he's prepared to lie through his teeth to get what he wants.

This book is a quick, fun book-in-verse filled with enjoyable--but unreliable--characters.  

No sex, but a few steamy close calls, some minor cussing, and some underage drinking and drug use.  The adults are easy to dislike at first, but they (especially Colette's mom) really redeem themselves at the end.

Recommended for readers ages 14 and up.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity  by Elizabeth Wein
audiobook read by Lucy Gaskell and Morven Christie

The spy known officially as "Verity" starts off her story by confessing that she has always pretended to be heroic.  Yet, when captured by the Gestapo behind enemy lines, the narrator freely admits that she, under pressure of captivity and torture, promptly betrayed wireless codes, details about Great Britain's homeland security and airfield defenses, and more.

In bits and pieces, scribbled away on scraps of paper, a story emerges.  

But the story is not the one that the Nazis think they are getting.

Code Name Verity isn't just blazingly fabulous historical fiction for teens, featuring two strong and capable girls.  

There is also action, suspense, and plenty of twists in the unreliable narrative.  This is a story of friendship, choices, and--no matter what Verity says--this is a story of courage.  

Descriptions of violence, treachery, and torture are intense but not graphic--much is left to the imagination of the reader.  

Very highly recommended for readers ages 12 to adult.  

No sex or overt sexual situations; this book is included on the SITL list because it features other controversial topics, including violence and torture.


Period.8 by Chris Crutcher

Period 8 is an optional class period where students join a group under the direction of  “Logs,”  the outstanding teacher character for this book.  

It is a place where anything can be said, and nothing travels outside the room.  Period.  Period 8 Period.

Then, Mary Wells goes missing.  Then there are betrayals. And lies.

This is also a story where Hannah sees the world in black and white.  And where Paulie always tells the truth, no matter who gets hurt. So many absolutes, so little time.

Like all Crutcher books, once you begin to examine people as individuals, there is so much more to the story.

Mary Wells (called the Virgin Mary) has a freakish father; Arney is a master manipulator (or future politician); Logs is a teacher about to retire and is ambiguous about leaving kids.  

And as with all Crutcher books, nuances surround everyone.  

Of course nothing is black and white, in real life, and definitely not in Crutcher books.  And of course, there are still lots of loose ends…decisions still to be made….

If I Should Die

If I Should Die by Amy Plum

“If I should die…,”  I begin to say.  

Vincent cuts me off.  “Stop Kate!”  And then he sighs and his shoulders hunch slightly.  He knows it’s dishonest to pretend we’re all going to make it out alive.  He shuts his eyes and when he opens them, he looks resolute. 

“Whatever happens, remember that I will love you forever,” he says.  “Even if my spirit is dispersed and my consciousness released to the universe…."

We all wanted the romance.  We got the romance.  

In this third book in the Revenant trilogy, we see the champion revealed, Paris (mostly) freed from the numa, several romances, and a few tragedies.

But wait, wasn’t Vincent dead and burned, never to return from Violette’s clutches?  Not so fast, my friend.  Kate just doesn’t give up that easily.  On anything, including whether she is ready for sex.  But that’s jumping ahead just a bit.

Reanimating Vincent takes a turn toward necromancy, which is downright nauseating.  Is he back really?  

Secrets are revealed about nearly every character that keep readers guessing or nodding if their suspicions were correct.  The definition of the minor characters was one focus that solidified the story.

Defeating Violette is harder, but the battle could have been bloodier, and we thank Plum for keeping it to a minimum.

We didn’t like Book 1 very much, but Book 2 was wonderful and made it into the Sex in the Library book.  Book 3 was a pleasure.

Truly Kate has many surprises for us, making her one gutsy heroine and a book that is hard to put down.