Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Being a Teen

Being a Teen   by Jane Fonda                     
978-0-8129-7861-2                            Random House, 2014            $15.00             
Being a Teen: Everything Teen Girls & Boys Should Know About Relationships, Sex, Love, Health, Identity & More is the full title of this bright yellow book.  Jane Fonda is the famous actress, outspoken, politically active person you know.  What qualifies her to write a book on sexuality is the work she has maintained in her clinics, the Jane Fonda Centers for Adolescent Reproductive Health.

The book covers all the basics of anatomy, complete with pictures.  It also covers standard teen questions about sexuality in a short answer, non-judgemental style.  Nothing in depth here.  She addresses, (not deeply), the GLBTQ question.  If you are looking for answers here, this is not for you.

Geared mainly toward girls, this is helpful for boys as well.  However, there are many better books on the market, for example, Safe Sex 101 : an overview for teens by Margaret O. Hyde and Elizabeth H. Forsythe or The “What’s Happening to My Body?” Book for Boys and The “What’s Happening to My Body?” Book for Girls by Lynda Madaras with Area Madaras.

My Last Kiss

My Last Kiss   by Bethany Neal                     
978-0-374-35128                   Farrar, Straus, 2014                        $17.99                      

In the prologue, Cassidy relives her first kiss with Ethan.  

In the first chapter we find out that Cassidy is now dead, looking up at the silhouette on the bridge (the killer?) and her mangled body on the rocks below.  

Cassidy is now a ghost, visiting the important people in her life, unable to communicate.  Except for Ethan.  They can talk and Ethan can see her.  

Problem #1:  Cassidy was cheating on Ethan and her last kiss was with Caleb, not Ethan.

Problem #2:  Cassidy doesn’t remember what happened that night on the bridge, or who was there with her.

Problem #3:  everyone thinks Cassidy’s death was a suicide.  

Together, Cassidy and Ethan set out to find out what happened and set the record straight.  Even if it is painful for Ethan.  Even if it means that Cassidy will “solve her problem and leave the world of ghosts.”

Of course there is kissing!  The rest is mystery- and understanding relationships, the underlying real theme.  For readers 12 and up (unless the drinking is a problem...)


Rebellion.:The Tankborn series, #3 by Karen Sandler
Tu Books, 2014.  978-160060984-8   $19.95,  394p.

The Tankborn  (GENS) are those genetically modified humans who can receive special powers.  They are also various shades of brown to black.  And have tattoos on their face so you will be sure to understand that this is a slave.  The trueborns are a caste above, whiter in skin, with all the privileges. There is a caste system within each of these groups..

Kayla is a GEN, although originally trueborn.  Devak is trueborn, now moved down in the caste system to pay for his treatments after the bombing.  In the first two novels, they have fallen in love but separated by a bomb blast in the rebellion where each thinks the other is dead.  This last in the series brings the rebellion to a close in a satisfying, commanding tale.  While you probably want to read the first two, this last is so well scripted, extra reading isn’t necessary.

The parallels to our society are obvious.  What saves this from being stereotypical is the handling of the nuances within the caste system.  The political intrigue is spot on, and the creatures are fantastic:  bhimkays, for example- giant spiders that are trained for riding.  This is a very realistic and striking world.  The novel moves between the two stories, and each is totally intriguing. Well done by an adult fiction writer entering the YA field.  Hopefully more are coming.

While we would like to have had more romance, there is also a side romance between two of the "lowborn" boys in the rebellion.  Some kissing, a little cussing- and that in the language of the world- "those denking spiders..."

For readers 12 and up.

The Truth About Alice

The Truth about Alice    by Jennifer Mathiew                                
978-1-59643-909-2     Roaring Press, 2014           $16.99                   199p

Alice lives in a small town in Texas.  Rumor has it that she slept with two boys at a party.  That rumor spreads like…well…the internet at warp speed. Rumor also has it that she sent sexually explicit texts to one of those boys later that ended in his death- reading texts while driving.  Rumor went on to say that she had an abortion.  

All rumors.  All spread like wildfire.  She is dumped by her best friend.  She has her own “slut stall” in the bathroom where sharpies spread more rumors.

This story is told in alternating chapters, by all the characters except Alice.  

She does talk in the final chapter.  

Perhaps a cross between Mean Girls and Gossip Girls, this is about the same ilk.  Will you read this as a gossip to find out what is true or not, but still tuned in?  Will you read this sympathetically having been there or known someone who was there?

For readers 16 and up.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Undertaking of Lily Chen

The Undertaking of Lily Chen  by Danica Novgorodoff

When Deshi's older brother Wei dies accidentally, his parents send Deshi on a quest to bring back a "corpse bride" so that their eldest son will not be alone in the afterlife.  With cash in hand, Deshi seeks out a grave robber...but the search is, ultimately, much more complicated than just digging up some bones to be buried along with Wei.

This story of modern China is full of fascinating, flawed characters.  Deshi and Wei are hardly ideal, upstanding citizens:  Wei is a drunk, a gambler, and a jerk.  Deshi is now working as a security guard having messed up as an army pilot.  Lily is pretty, but is also pretty annoying at times.   The supporting cast is equally dinged-up, and this makes the story much more interesting, and makes the ending much more satisfying.

Beautiful romantically-washed watercolor landscapes juxtaposed with wobbly line-drawn human figures allow the reader's eyes to travel quickly through the book, and the quickly moving narrative suites the illustrations.   

Recommended for readers ages 14 to adult.  The characters are all adults, but the family dysfunction issues will appeal to teens.  No cussing, some (cartoon) blood, the on-page sex scene is tactfully masked with blankets and black ink.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Wild Rover No More

Wild Rover No More  by L.A. Meyer
eagerly-awaited audiobook narrated by Katherine Kellgren

The cover illustration shows Jacky facing a noose once again, and the subtitle is "Being the Last Recorded Account of the Life & Times of Jacky Faber."  Has Jacky come to her untimely-but-not-unforeseen end at last?  

Well, certainly not before she disguises herself as a governess, runs away with the circus, and involves nearly all her friends in a desperate escape plan.  And even then, how could the authorities hang our merry lass?

Jacky's full-tilt adventures are brought to a quick conclusion in this twelfth and final novel in the Bloody Jack Series.  There is a distinct air of abruptness to the last third of the narrative; the author made no secret of his plan to pre-write the final chapters in the series so that they could be clipped on to the existing storyline at almost any point if he became unable to continue writing the story, and that is clearly the case with this book.  Still, the story is fast, fun, and satisfying, and a recommended read for those who love the series and newcomers seeking a ripping good adventure story.

RIP, L.A. Meyer, you did well.  

Ages 13 to adult; some minor cussing, kissing and bloodshed, but all sexual situations are off-page.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Say What You Will

Say What You Will  by Cammie McGovern

Amy is a high school senior with spastic cerebral palsy.  She doesn't walk well without assistance, she talks by using a voice simulating computer, and she has no real friends.

Matthew is a high school senior who has known Amy (kind of) since elementary school.  Matthew is obsessive-compulsive, and his need to tap lockers, count ceiling tiles, wash his hands and avoid the blue squares on the hallway floors is getting worse.  He doesn't have any real friends either.

When Matthew is hired as a peer helper for Amy, the two teens begin talking to each other as they have never communicated with anyone else before.  Maybe they've even fallen in love, despite their catastrophic prom date.

And then...things go wrong.

Beautifully written, here is a compassionate story of two teens who don't fit in. And yes, there is sex in this book -- tactful, and off-page, but there is definitely sex.

Highly recommended for readers who liked the passion and  intelligent banter between characters in The Fault In Our Stars, with the good news:  nobody dies in this book.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Hexed  by Michelle Krys
​Indigo Blackwood fits all the Los Angeles stereotypes: chirpy cheerleader,  girlfriend of the Football Hero, blah blah blah.  Here's what you don't know about Indie, because she doesn't know it either:  she's a witch.  And that weird book her mom is so obsessed with?  It's a Witch Hunting book that has to be kept safe, or all the witches and warlocks in the world will be endangered from a group of wicked rival sorcerers.

Oh, please.

Buffy, meet Mean Girls.  Cute characters and some fun conversations almost save this from the circular file, but not quite.  The drama leaps around randomly, significant hostages are killed without warning, and then suddenly the main characters are being chased by a dragon through the sewer--which is, apparently, a great time to strip naked and suck face with the hunky warlock guy.

No, really.  

First in a series.  But, why?

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Story of Owen, dragon slayer of Trondheim

The Story of Own, Dragon Slayer of Trondheim  by E.K. Johnston

Listen! For I sing of Owen Thorskard: valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, last in a long line of legendary dragon slayers. Though he had few years and was not built for football, he stood between the town of Trondheim and creatures that threatened its survival. 

17-year-old Siobhan McQuaid spends most of her non-school time composing and performing music, but her entire life changes when she meets apprentice dragonslayer Owen Thorskard and agrees to be his bard, promoting his adventures by setting them to music.  Together, Siobhan and Owen not only learn to fight dragons, they take decisive steps to keep rural Ontario safe from dragonfire forever.   

At least, that was the plan.

Here is an alternative history of the world as we know it, with dragons.  Dragons attracted to the carbon emissions of humanity, bothering the likes of historical figures from Alexander the Great to Queen Victoria to Henry Ford, and emperilling civilization every step of the way. 

Adventure, heroics, music, and dragons.  But no magic.  Plus: Canadian heroes and completely awesome cover art!  This is listed as book #1 of a series, but stands alone nicely.

Minor cussing, burnt flesh and bloodshed (not gory, but necessary to the story).  Romance, but no sexual situations on the page yet--perhaps volume 2 of the series will bring more?  We can hope.  

Recommended for readers 12 to adult.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

To All the Boys I've Loved Before

To All the Boys I've Loved Before  by Jenny Han

Lara Jean has kept all the love letters she's ever written.  Whenever she's trying to fall out of love with a boy, she's always written him a letter, put it into an envelope and addressed it, but not mailed the letter.  It's a great system, until one day her little sister mails them all.  


Now all the boys Lara Jean has loved are coming to find out more about the girl who wrote those letters.  Including her older sister's ex-boyfriend.

(Very big oops.)

Sweet and funny, this story is bigger on the inside.  The relationship between the sisters is complex and believable.  The coming-and-going of boys is realistically confusing for Lara Jean, who has never had a boyfriend--or a date--before.  The rumor mill surrounding the school ski trip is absolutely ripped-from-the-halls-of-your-high-school.

And the ending...just stops. 

Ahhhh, because book #2 in the series (it's a series??) is set for publication in April 2015.  I guess we'll just have to wait and find out what happens next.

(I hate waiting.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sweet Reckoning

Sweet Reckoning by Wendy Higgins


This is the third and final book in the Sweet Evil trilogy.  Where Book 2 was simply a bridge book, the final book brings all the suspense and excitement, and hot bodies to a very satisfying conclusion. 


Anna Whitt, half angel / half demon, is still working with her father, Belial, demon and duke of Substance Abuse, to rid the world of demons.  Anna was promised through a prophecy that if the dukes and their children, the nephilim, would fight to free the world of demons, they would not be thrust into the abyss.  How to get the demon world to work with her is the trick.


Anna has been working with the aid of several Nephilim and a (very)few of the dukes since Book 1.  The time has come to make a stand.  Anna has not seen Kaiden since he went back to work for his father, Pharzuph, the Duke of Lust.  Their love and partnership rekindled, they must now pull the fighters together for one last stand- at the meeting of all demons and nephilim.


The affair between Anna and Kaiden is still smoking hot.  Kaiden is still fighting the order from his father to deflower Anna.  Getting around that order is both cheesy and intriguing.  The action is non-stop, with surprises along the way.  The battle ends almost as it starts, but along the way, we see growth in each of the supporting cast, along with some new neph.


While this has always been good vs evil with Biblical mythology, the absolute religious tendencies of the author have been held in the distance.  In this last book, they are certainly forefront.  Still, we knew that when the series started.   The story stands on its own merit.


While the first two books were pretty chaste, with Kaiden pulling the abstinence stops, this one forges ahead.  Be ready.

All the Truth That's In Me

All The Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry

Judith lives in the small rural town of Roswell Station with her mother and her older brother.  The time is not clear, but certainly everyone uses a horse and wagon, with farming the major occupation.  Judith loves her brother and her mother, and the neighbor boy, Lucas, whom she has loved forever.  People, however, avoid Judith.  Four years ago, she and her best friend Lottie disappear, and Judith returned with her tongue cut out.  Lottie was found floating face down in the river.

To please her mother, Judith avoids talking at all, and in reality becomes a servant in the house.  Townspeople think she might have been sexually abused (she wrote in a city fathers’ meeting that she was not) and/or gone slightly mad.  Lucas announces his engagement to the prettiest and most popular girl in town.  Then the town is attacked.  Judith knows how to save the town, but doing so will bring dire consequences, some very unintended. 

Each character is well defined, with a personality that will surprise you.  We are not simple people, we humans.  Neither are even the minor characters. 

A good reader will think they know the secrets and see the ending.  They will be wrong this time.

Yes, there are sexual situations, some real, many imagined.  And there is love, real love, in many forms.

(The) Book of Life

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness.  

Book 3 of the Souls Trilogy, this does not stand alone.  However, for fans of the series, it is a great ending.

 In Book 2, (Shadow of  Night) Diana and Matthew returned to present time, pregnant with twins, to find the magical alchemical manuscript Ashmole 782,  The Book of Life, to witches, vampires, and daemons. The new family spurs them to pursue creating a legal marriage out their illegal union of witch and vampire.  To do this, they must create a new family branch, and pull all creatures closer in understanding their possibilities and origins.

Matthew’s blood disease becomes center stage when his son Benjamin Fuchs returns to create havoc, trying to destroy the family. It is this vampire that generates the central problem, suspense, and violence.  And gives us an amazing ending.

I disliked dragging an entire genetics class into Matthew’s research.  It did not make sense for the need for secrecy; it did help the reader to understand genetic background.  Overall, the writing was not as solid as the first two- perhaps she was rushed into the third?  It’s just that we all wanted a satisfying ending and soon that we forgive Harkness.

I did like the change in Diana, even in Book 2, when she became pregnant, and in this book as a mother.  Always a strong character, she shows a bit of  “tiger mom” aspects.

A word to teen readers:  the first in the series is wonderful and accessible for teens.  This book, perhaps, is for older teens.

Another Little Piece

Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn.  

After a particularly horrific scene at a party, Annaliese disappears for a year.  When she reappears at home, she is a very different girl.  She knows in fact, that she is really a different girl in Annaliese’s body.  And she knows she can’t stay in this body.

The mystery quickly becomes multi-faceted, with “another little piece” given to us slowly (agonizingly so.)  Flashbacks become really annoying, even if you know the story is supposed to be revealed gradually.  Anna wants to learn about her family and the boy at the party, (and the boy next door who “sees” death) but alternately remembers a razor and a mentor who seems a cross between demon and overlord.

With a slow start, the story overtakes your imagination and your knowledge of mythology, becoming a thriller you can’t put down. Unpleasant, yes- vivid to the point of disturbing violence, this is not for the squeamish.  Finding a motive for Anna’s choices is difficult and a weak plotline. We understand that Anna is confused at the beginning, but she is not towards the end.  However, Quinn ties it all together, letting our hearts slow down a bit.

Some sexual situations and body parts; lots of violence and cussing.
For grades 10 up who are fans of mystery horror

Better Nate Than Ever

Better Nate Than Ever  by Tim Federle

13-year-old Nate's love of musical theater invites teasing and torment by his peers and his older brother, but he is certain that he belongs on the Broadway stage.  Right now, he'd be thrilled just to see a Broadway stage. When his folks go out of town leaving Nate and his brother mostly-unsupervised, Nate grabs the opportunity for escape, and heads out on a Greyhound bus bound for NYC and a Broadway audition for "E.T: the Musical."

Of course, nothing goes according to plan.  Aided by a long-lost auntie, his BFF Libby back home, and a few surprising allies, Nate does arrive safely (if somewhat crumpled by the journey) and auditions for the part of Elliot.  

Nate's voice throughout the story is hilarious.  He doesn't know much, and he doesn't know how much he doesn't know, but he's got a goal and he's got guts, and he's got a sense of humor (which helps a lot if you don't know much).  

There's some bullying, some very unhelpful parents, and some cussing (he's a starstruck 13-year-old boy stuck in Jankburk, PA -- he has reason to cuss), plus one near-miss kiss.  Nate questions his own value as well as his sexuality, but through it all, he's determined to get up on that stage to sing.  How can we not applaud?

Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Thank-you notes from a SITL presentation audience

Miss Manners would be so proud.

"Every since you came I think I am going to try to read as many books
I can that was on the list.  So far I have read "Somebody Up there Hates You."
It's really a good book.  your friend, Keyasiu

A few weeks ago, the Sex in the Library booktalking team journeyed to Licton Springs K-8 school in Seattle to present a program in conjuction with Banned Books week.  The classes are studying censorship and reading banned books, and wanted to talk about books with controversial content.

For the 2 best women to make someone exsited to read Aarene and Mary jo.
Its hard to make someone want to read but you did it.
Thank you.
We are happy to oblige!

I would never have thought me reading a book about Sex in a million years.
You guys taught me that we have the right to read what we want. Also that
not to be ashamed about what you read.  I really appreciate you guys coming to
suggest good books.
I plan on reading Beauty Queen[s], Doing It, and Forever.  Those books
seem either funny or every body reads them.  I cant wait to read them.
Thank you so much for to Licton Springs K-8. Please please please come again.

We love talking about stuff like that!

I want to Read all the banned books because It's fun to read!! Thank you so much!!
right now I'm reading "Doing It" It's a good book, also "breathing underwater".
I love books.  p.s. Im a book nerd.  --Styleen

Today, a stack of thank-you notes arrived.  Clearly, writing the note was an assignment, but it is just as clear that message content was not dictated.  

Middle school students are wonderfully opinionated!

After you guys told me about these Books I got really excited to just start reading.
I think the first Book I am going to read it "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time
Indian" by Sherman Alexie.

If you would like to have Sex in the Library at your next conference, convention, or staff in-service, contact us here via the comments box or find us on Facebook.

We'd love to put together a program just for you!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Edge of the Water

Edge of the Water (Edge of Nowhere series #2)  by Elizabeth George

In the preface, we find a girl who can’t/won’t speak who is abandoned by her parents, left to wander, scared of the water, dragging a suitcase along behind her.

Now skip to Providence Sound, Whidbey Island, Washington.  Jenn wants badly to leave the island and her meager existence, focusing on a soccer scholarship.  She meets Annie Taylor, grad student marine biologist, who rents a very dilapidated trailer from her father.  The two strike up a friendship, partly through the money Annie offers Jenn to assist her in tracking a famous black seal in the area, and partly because Jenn is drawn to Annie romantically.

Now skip to Becca, who has come to the island to escape her violent step-father, now out of jail.  Becca knows he is dangerous because she hears “whispers” from people’s minds.  She can’t read minds, exactly.  She has also changed her appearance, gaining a large amount of weight, changing her hair color and adding glasses.  This prompts Jenn to call her “fat broad,” both because of the weight, and because Jenn doesn’t think Becca is a good romantic fit for her friend Derric.

The characters, setting, and the seal are expertly intertwined in this mystery.  Even those cast in supporting roles are well-defined.  We care about every character in this novel, even the seal.  Teens act like teens.  Adults are not stupid.  Unusual in a teen novel for both sets of characters to be so well drawn.

While the mystery is well done, we did find the back-flips to Silla’s story annoying.  Good readers will, of course, sense the ending halfway through.

While this is the second in the series, it won’t take readers long to understand the back story.  Now when is the third?????

Great for 12 up

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I Kill the Mockingbird

I Kill the Mockingbird  by Paul Acampora

Inspired by Fat Bob the English teacher, eighth graders Lucy, Elena and Michael decide that not nearly enough people read and enjoy Fat Bob's favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird. 

To motivate more people to read the book, the teens make the book...disappear: they mis-shelve copies in bookstores and libraries, and they create a website, a Facebook page, and a Tumblr account to give the appearance of a conspiracy to keep people from reading Mockingbird. 

Soon, bookstores and libraries all over the country are reporting that their copies of the book are missing...and readers all over the country are discovering that they actually do want to spend their summer reading about Scout, Jem, Dill, and the elusive Boo Radley.

If you've ever dreamed of a literary conspiracy, here's your book.  Fast, funny, and full of quotable one-liners that readers will love to share with friends. 

Recommended for ages 14 to adult; two sweet kisses, no cussing, no bloodshed, and no mockingbirds are harmed.

Monday, October 13, 2014


Steelheart  by Brandon Sanderson

Ten years ago, Calamity burst in the sky and ordinary human beings were transformed into Epics.  Some control the weather.  Some can stop bullets.  Some can electrically charge entire cities with a touch.  

Sounds like an ordinary teen flying-capes-and-tights superhero novel, right?  Except there's a catch:  not one of the Epics is a "good guy."  There's just something about using their powers that makes Epics selfish, cruel, and power-hungry.

Almost all humans cower before the Epics, except for a group of rag-tag renegades known as the Reckoners.  Using technology, ingenuity, and a bit of luck, they fight against the Epics.  Eighteen year old David is obsessed with joining the Reckoners.  But when he does, he discovers that fighting the Epics is a lot more complicated than he had thought.

Superhero battles with excellent action sequences interspersed with fabulous character development, plenty of humorous banter, plus a touch of doomed romance equals fabulous.

The only thing better than the book is the audiobook read by MacLeod Andrews.  This story had me making excuses to drive places so I could listen.  First in a series; volume #2 Firefight will be released in January 2015, and I will be waiting in line.

Recommended for ages 10 to adult.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Wild Things : acts of mischief in children's literature

Wild Things : acts of mischief in children's literature  
by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter D. Sieruta

Reading this book is like spending a few hours in a bar adjacent a library or booksellers conference, learning all kinds of juicy gossip about children and teen books, authors, illustrators, and publishers. From the private life of Maurice Sendak to the steamy journals of Wanda Gag, with snarky tales of celebrity authors and plenty of side-stories about controversial topics and landmark books like Annie on my Mind, Go Ask Alice, and Forever, the authors huddle in tightly to include the reader as they dish up scandal after scandal, with jaunty, conversational buoyancy.

A fun read for librarians, parents, and other lovers of books for kids and teens...but not of interest to teens and kids themselves.

Also, if you've never spent a few hours in the bar adjacent a library or booksellers conference, you should try it sometime.  

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Cress   (Lunar Chronicles, bk #3)
 by Marissa Meyer

Cress has been alone on a satellite circling earth since she was a very young child, with only her netscreens and an occasional visit from her Lunar guardian for company.  She has grown her hair very long and developed an excellent singing voice, a talent for computer hacking, and a taste for sentimental romances...and Cress longs for a handsome prince to rescue her from distress.

What comes along is not a prince exactly, but rather, a group of fugitives intent on de-throning the evil Lunar Queen Levana.  And they want Cress to help them.

This story is much more than a science fiction re-casting of "Rapunzel."  It is also a terrific, fast-paced, suspenseful and sweet coming-of-age tale.  With plenty of cliffhanger chapters and chases through deserts, underground passageways and outer space, there is much to love...including the clever but naive character of Cress.

Cress is part 3 in a series that will include at least 4 books.  Cinder starts the series, starring an unloved cyborg stepchild.  Scarlet is second, featuring a girl in red and her rather dubious lupine companion.  Winter (coming in September 2015) will focus on Queen Levana's beautiful stepdaughter.  A "prequel" to the series, Fairest, is scheduled for release in January 2015.

The book and the audiobook narrated by Rebecca Soler are highly recommended to readers and listeners ages 12 to adult.  No cussing, some violence, some blood, and a few very important kisses.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Here and Now

The Here and Now  by Ann Brashares

Prenna and her mother immigrated to New York five years ago...from the future.

When Prenna was only five years old,  a mosquito-borne plague began killing millions of people.  The world of the future is warmer and wetter, and the mosquito season is always. A few plague-immune people travel backwards in time to try to prevent the pandemic...but the rules that govern the community of time travelers seem designed to prevent changing the future.  They must stick together, avoiding attention from contemporary medical practitioners, and absolutely avoiding inclusion in the historical archive--print, photography, and video--and above all, they must never develop a physically or emotionally intimate relationship with a time-native.

This is fine with Prenna at first.  Then she falls in love with Ethan Jarves, who is not from the future, but somehow seems to know a lot about it.

Together Prenna and Ethan follow a series of clues leading them ever-closer to the original source of the blood plague, and the circumstances that allowed it to spiral out of control.  The clues are small at first, the pace is fast, and the suspense will keep readers turning pages in an attempt to keep up with the main characters' race to save the world.

This is not Connie Willis' time-travel-and-plague book.  That one was absolutely outstanding, and won the Nebula award in 1992 and the Hugo award in 1993.  This one isn't as nearly as good...but it isn't 592 pages long, either.  Instead, it's a quick, fun, mind-bender with a strong female main character, a bit of social thinking, and a touch of romance.

Recommended for ages 12 to adult.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Since You Asked

Since You Asked  by Maurene Goo

High school sophomore Holly Kim has always tried to fly below the radar of student attention to avoid some of the inevitable Asian-American stereotypes and keep her mom from bugging her too much.  But when Holly's snarky parody of an article is accidentally published in the school paper, administrators decide to "punish" Holly by assigning her to write a feature article for each monthly issue.  Most of the students (and some teachers) hate what Holly writes, but (for reasons not disclosed to the reader) she writes on, dissing the Student Council, her school's Homecoming traditions, and her family's skewed, modern version of the American Dream. In October, she uncovers an accusation of rigging the Homecoming court elections but doesn't ever find out if they are rigged or not. In February, she acquires a secret admirer who writes horrible rhyming couplets.  In June she defies her stereotypical Korean mom and goes to L.A. with her friends for the weekend and gets busted by the cops, and...

Wait, what?

Funny at times, snarky all the way through, and with a randomness that echoes the inability of many high school sophomores to look more than three days into the future, this book meanders through the school year, not even sticking to its own inner structure.  (Hello?  If the book is supposed to feature a monthly newspaper column, what happened to January?  And March?  and May?)

I wanted to love this book, and I'm so sorry that I didn't.  Several chapters were awesome, but the whole thing never stuck together as a cohesive unit.

Despite hints of sexual situations, nothing like that happens on-page or off. There is some underage drinking, and some fairly dreadful rock-and-roll, plus the aforementioned rhyming couplets.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Girl Defective

Left: Australian cover art.  Right:  American cover art.

Girl Defective by Simmone Howell

Sky's family of misfits lives above a vintage record store:  her father is an alcoholic deep in denial and firmly stuck in the past, her little brother Gully pretends to be a secret agent and won’t take off his pig snout mask, and her mother left the family behind for an avant-garde career in music.  Sky is drawn to Luke, the older brother of a girl who mysteriously drowned, and she yearns to emulate her worldly friend Nancy, while at the same time considers herself a “resident bird,” intent on finding her place (whatever it may be) in St Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne.

In keeping with a family obsessed by vintage vinyl, Sky often describes people and situations by comparing them to old (and often obscure) music recordings.  Readers (like me) who lack knowledge of these recordings will still be able to follow the story, but probably miss some of the nuance of the story.

The well-written characters are quirky, flawed and layered. The dialogue is snappy and sometimes brutally honest.   The mysterious death of Luke’s sister Mia is not the focus of the story, but investigating it brings clues forward to inform other issues and other characters.  Few situations are actually resolved, but the conclusion holds many notes of redemption.

Recommended for readers ages 14 to adult.

Nearly Gone

Nearly Gone by  Elle Cosimano
Nearly Boswell used to have money.  Then her father disappeared; her mother became a strip-tease dancer; they moved into a trailer park.  Now Nearly reads the personals in the local paper.   At first, it was because she saw an ad that seemed like her dad was trying to get in touch with her.  Later it was just something that seemed to express her own loneliness.  She still has a friend from those earlier days, wealthy Jeremy, and a friend in science class, Anh Bui, who is also trying for the same scholarship Nearly needs to go to college.  
One other thing about Nearly-  she can sense feelings when she touches someone - so she avoids touching anyone.
Every Friday, a personal ad now appears in the paper, leaving a scientific clue about a crime:  a hurt cheerleader, a dead cat, and then a string of murders.  
Nearly tries to solve the mystery, aided--and distracted--by the new "bad boy in town" Reece, who hangs out with the drug dealer in her trailer park; has a police record; and attracts Nearly to an extent she doesn’t understand.  She wants to touch him.
 This is one story that will leave you sweating, looking for clues, wanting to throw things, but definitely engaged.  Can you guess the killer before the last person is killed?  I doubt it.
One last thing- who names their child Nearly and why???
The story will draw the teen crowd, but the violence and sexual decisions place it with the 15 and up crowd.

The Glass Casket

The Glass Casket  by McCormick Templeman 
Rowan Rose lives in a small medieval-ish town.  Girls are not allowed schooling, and the town worships a goddess.  It is a quiet town, and the only thing that is of any consequence is that a new girl, about Rowan’s age, has arrived.  Fiona Eira is Rowan’s long-lost cousin, and is a very beautiful girl, but aloof.  Rowan is required by her father not to speak to her as well.  Then five riders from the king are found dead, laid out naked on the snow.  The town officials decide these were wolf attacks...and when people in the town are suddenly killed- literally ripped apart, sometimes inside their locked houses--the officials still look for wolves.
The horror and blood are graphically detailed, as is the affair of Rowan’s best friend, Tom, and Fiona, which borders on necrophilia.  The town officials finally agree to fight the “thing in the forest.”  
Not for the faint of heart.
Containing elements of Snow White, and Snow-White and Rose-Red, and of course, many vampire stories, this is really its own folktale, featuring good witches and greywitches.  The mystery is very well done and will keep surprising readers right up to the end.  
Unfortunately, the characters are less well drawn, and we only really care about them as instruments to unravel the plot.
Recommended for readers ages 15 and up

Monday, July 28, 2014

Erebos : it's a game. It watches you.

Erebos  by Ursula Poznanski
translation from the German by Judith Pattinson

Like most of his friends, Nick Dunsmore enjoys playing video games.  But he's never played anything like Erebos.  The rules are strange:
*  Always play alone.
*  Do not talk to anyone about the game.
*  Don't copy the disk unless instructed by the game.
and strangest of all:
*  You have only one chance to play.  If you break the rules, or if your character in the game dies, the game is over and you can never play again.

Strangest of all, the game itself seems to know when players break the rules.  But how?

As more of Nick's classmates join the game, things get even more bizarre, especially when the game insists that players conduct "missions" in the real world.  Some missions seem quite innocent, like picking up a box hidden in a park and hiding it in a different park.  But soon enough, the missions become sinister.

The story is nearly as compelling as the game itself.  Players quickly become addicted to the adventure, and many are willing to do anything to gain status within the world of Erebos.

Yes, anything....

More dire than Ready Player One (Cline, 2011), with less gore and fewer technology details than REAMDE (Stephenson, 2011), this game-gone-bad novel will appeal mostly to teen gamers.  Sophisticated readers may trip on some of the setting details, some politically incorrect racist and sexist statements which may or may not be a result of translation into English from German, and the distinctly Scooby Doo ending: "foiled by those meddling kids!"

Recommended for ages 13 to adult.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ice Dogs

Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

14-year-old champion musher Victoria Secord has always loved racing her sled dogs through the Alaskan bush...and, after her dad dies in a trail accident, the sport is Victoria's lasting connection to him.  He taught her how to be independent, self-reliant, and an expert at surviving in the wilderness.  But when she and her dogs encounter first an injured "city boy" and later a blizzard, Victoria's skills are put to the ultimate test: life and death.

This fast-paced adventure, written by an experienced musher, features lots of stuff I like in a book: realistic action, suspense, and a convincing touch of romance between the two main characters.  The events are entirely plausible, and Victoria's response to them makes sense.  Her relationship with her dogs is wonderful--she knows them as individuals, and identifies their strengths within the team.  Plus, she is a smart, awesome protagonist in a sport that is mostly dominated by men.  Victoria doesn't dwell on her "minority" status, but she acknowledges that being a girl (and not a very large one) gives her both advantages and disadvantages in competition, and she is smart enough to use whatever edge it takes to win...and to survive.

With two modern main characters, this book may appeal more broadly than Gary Paulsen'sDogsong, which also tells the story of a dogsled journey.  Pair Ice Dogs with Julie of the Wolves and Hatchet for lovers of survival fiction.

Highly recommended for readers ages 10 to adult.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders

Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders  by Geoff Herbach
Gabe Johnson (called "Chunk") doesn't have much in his life.  He isn't a scholar or a jock, he doesn't have a girlfriend, and his home life is kind of pathetic.  Although he isn't very musically talented, Chunk is happiest in the high school band, and looks forward to marching camp each summer.

When money for the music program is cut, and at the same time a new cheerleading dance squad is formed and funded, Chunk deduces (correctly) that proceeds from the school soda machine, which supposedly supported the band, have been diverted to the cheerleaders.

Chunk doesn't just get mad.  He also makes plans to get even.

The reader knows from page one that Chunk's plans went awry, because the book is narrated in a police report. The characters begin as stereotypes: cheerleaders, jocks, geeks, goths and stoners.  However, nobody stays inside the boundaries of a stereotype, and that is why this story is worthwhile. The journey to the police station is convoluted, funny, poignant, and feels very true, especially to this former-high-school-band-weenie reader.

A bit of minor cussing, no sex, some tactful kissing (mostly off-page), and some sweet romance.

Recommended for readers ages 12 to adult.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Fangirl  by Rainbow Rowell
audiobook read by Rebecca Lowman and Maxwell Caufield

Cath assumed that Wren would always be by her side, no matter what.  After all, the girls are identical twins, and have shared every aspect of their lives together, always.   But when they leave home for their first year of college, Wren wants to try living her life as an individual, leaving Cath feeling abandoned and alone.

The only time Cath doesn't feel pathetic is when she's writing fanfiction.  She takes characters from her favorite book series and writes her own stories about them--and Cath's version, in which the two main guy characters are in love, has thousands of fans of its own!

But Cath is so busy writing fanfiction that she is overlooking some awesome real people.  Like her dad, who loves her.  And like that cute boy who asks her to read out loud, maybe....

For readers who would sometimes rather stay inside a fictional world.  Isn't that all of us, sometimes?

The audiobook is completely engrossing, with Rebecca Lowman reading Cath's world and Maxwell Caufield reading exerpts from books and stories about Simon Snow.

Some cussing, allusions to sex and sexual situations, and a fantasy-world-within-the-real-world.  Highly recommended for ages 14 to adult.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Between Two Worlds

Between Two Worlds  by Katherine Kirkpatrick

Eqariusaq has had an almost life-long association with polar explorer Robert Peary and his family.  When she was very young, the family renamed Eqariusaq "Billie Bah" and brought her to spend a year in America with the Peary family, where she spoke English, wore "civilized" clothing, and was the first of her people to see the modern world filled with trees, horse-drawn carriages, trees, museums, and more.  Billie Bah successfully returned to her people, but she thinks that her journey inspired others to go with the Pearys, and none of these have ever returned.  All save one died of disease...including Billie Bah's own parents.

Now 16 years old, Billie Bah must face changes in her life.  She loves her husband, but she also grows to love one of the sailors she is "traded" to (temporarily) in exchange for guns and ammunition.  She discovers the truth about her parents' death, and she tries to sort out her feelings for Peary and his family and find her own place in the world.

The real Billie Bah with Robert Peary

Woven into the story are fascinating details of life in this tiny Greenlandic community.  Tribal customs and expectations, vocabulary, and descriptions of building fox traps, auk snares, and  rock igloos are described with meticulous detail that never becomes didactic or boring.  Extensive author notes identify factual (and fictional) aspects of the story.

Recommended for readers ages 14 to adult.  An excellent choice for historical fiction or diversity assignments.

Alcohol, death, ghosts, grieving, guys, multi-ethnic, recommended, religious beliefs, sexual situations, star trek sex.