Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Stars Never Rise

The Stars Never Rise    by Rachel Vincent  
Delacorte Press, 2015.  978-0-385-74417-1.  $17.99.  359p

Sixteen-year-old Nina and her sister Melanie struggle to survive while their mother is strung out on drugs sleeping all day.  

In this dystopian world, the Church rules everyone through the fear of demons, purity, and people who must die to “gift” their soul to a new baby (all born without a soul.) 

Nina is an exorcist and must try to save her sister, now pregnant without consent of the church, and without being married.  And of course, save herself since all “real” exorcists are rogue. Including the really cute boy with amazing green eyes.  

This wild ride of a novel is the first in a series, which might be good, since the book raises more questions than it answers.  Woven in through the novel are people who inhabit dual bodies, sexual situations, lots of innocent dead bodies, and of course, demons.  

Because of the world setting, there was a lot of information to get across, and some of that bogged the story down.  The twists are nicely done, and your nerves will be raw by the end.

Recommended 14 up

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Joyride   by Anna Banks
Feiwell and Friends, 2015.  978-1-250-03961-3  $1799.  276p

Carly Vegas lives with her older brother, going to school and working at night, helping to earn enough money to pay the smuggler who will bring her parents and younger twin siblings back across the border.  

She needs to keep a low profile, not attracting attention because what they are doing is obviously illegal.  She needs school to get a real job, a good college, and  move ahead. Her life revolves around school, grades, and work.  So why then, does she keep finding herself going out with Arden Moss, son of the local sheriff?

The attraction of the two opposites, we know, will lead to disaster.  It is impossible not to watch and root for the two.  While it is heartening to see racism addressed in YA lit, the sheriff father’s racist reactions to Mexicans is just too stereotypical.  Carly’s reactions to racism in the book are spot-on.  She is a smart, capable heroine who has goals and sticks with them.   Arden is a less-defined character.  Although likable, he carries lots of baggage, dealing with it in inappropriate ways.  There is growth on his part, but in the long run, life is too easy for him.  Even Carly comments on this.

The ending is too swift, too pat to be believable.  Although this was a Quick Pick, many teens will find that it drags in the middle.  It is also sad that Banks uses the need to make money as a reason why the family promotes a “you shouldn’t care about school” attitude. 

Despite these problems, the book is still a good read.
recommended 12 up

This Raging Light

This Raging Light   by Estelle Laurie.  
Houghton Mifflin, 2016.978-0-544-53429-2.  $17.99.  288p

“These are all the things Mom did while nobody noticed.  I notice her now.  I notice her isn’t.  I notice her doesn’t.”

In her senior year, Lucille gets her little sister Wren ready to begin 4th grade.  It appears that their mom has left them, although she declared that she “just needed a vacation.” Dad is in an alcoholic rehab. 

During the rest of the book, Lucille deals with keeping their family together, facing all the things you need to do as part of a routine:  making breakfast, making a lunch your sister loved yesterday but hates today, doing laundry so you have clean clothes.  Lucille is determined, but has difficulty keeping away adults who notice.  While she can keep Wren’s teacher at bay with notes and visits, excusing her mom, she can do little about the dwindling money.  Then things fall more apart:  best friend Eden stops talking to her; the car dies.  She gets a job with little trouble, but without Eden babysitting, Wren is a problem.

Then there is Digby, the twin of her best friend.  Who has a girlfriend.  For whom she has fallen.  The fact that he helps her with babysitting Wren and is just NICE doesn’t help. 

Lucille deals with her issues like any overloaded teen:  guilt, over-compensation, and overwork.  She loves Wren, but understandably hates their circumstances and the fact that she can’t deal with what should be adult issues.  She is in uncharted territory,  at home, at work, and with the non-boyfriend boyfriend.  Lucille deals with it all in a humorous, teen angsty, even poetic, way.  Everyone itries on the adult persona, and fails– then tries again.  And again.

Recommended 12 up


Invincible  by Amy Reed
Katherine Tegen Books, 2015.  978-0-06-22957-4.  $17.99.  325 p.

Evie is a patient in a teen cancer ward.  

She has had Ewing’s Sarcoma for most of her life, and feels more at home in the hospital with her fellow patients.  Like any teen, she wants to act out.  Stella is only too happy to help her.  Stella becomes Evie’s outlandish roll model until they escape the hospital for a day and Stella dies.  Evie falls into despair, as she knows her own death is also imminent.  This is a 3 kleenex box portion of the book.

Suddenly, Evie’s cancer disappears!  She goes home, finds that she is a stranger at home, at school, with the boyfriend who has stuck by her, and in her mind.  She can’t shake the depression, and falls into prescription drug abuse.  Her parents too have spent so much of their lives dealing with imminent death, that they become pretty ineffectual.   Evie also meets Marcus, who is scarred in different ways, and while he tries to help Evie, the descent is horrifying to watch.

Reed creates real characters.  This is not Fault in our Stars.  It is a visceral reaction to finding that you are going to live after years of preparing for death.   Tough themes are tackled with grace and realism, adding to the difficulty in placing this book in a school library.  We can’t read only tearful, sweet stories of death and acceptance.  This is the real world.

Set for a sequel, we will not read how Evie’s story ends until next summer.

Recommended 14 up.

Dark Shimmer

Dark Shimmer by Napoli, Donna Jo
Wendy Lamb books, 2015.  978-0385746557.  $16.99.  369p.

Dolce (Sweet) is a fifteen-year-old girl who lives as a “giant” among a race of dwarves on the island of Torcello outside Venice during the Middle Ages.  

Most babies born who are not dwarves are taken from the parents.  Dolce’s mother could not stand to do that, but when her mother dies, Dolce leaves the island, finding refuge on a neighboring island inhabited by monks- and a family visiting there.  The father, a widower, falls in love and marries Dolce, who becomes a loving mother to his daughter, Bianca.  (White) This is the story of how Snow White’s stepmother became the wicked witch.

 On Torcello, Dolce learned how to make mirrors, and does so in Venice, first to become accepted in society, and later to purchase and free any dwarf who has become a slave.  The problem is, of course, that the quicksilver used in mirrors  caused one to descend into madness. 

While Dolce is a sympathetic character, she quickly becomes so stereotyped that we are reduced to a reader of any fairy tale book.  Bianca is not well developed, and Marin, the husband, barely exists.  His sister Angnola becomes the most interesting character in the book. 

The story follows the original fairy tale, and we turn pages only because we want to see how Napoli will play out the tale we know, not because we are invested in the characters.  The story reads as an impersonal fairy tale:  still a good tale, just a forgettable one.  Napoli has turned many fairy tales into novels, some of which have been well done (Sirena, Breath, Beast [both versions.])

Recommended 12 up

A Thousand Nights

A Thousand Nights  by Johnston, E.K.
 Hyperion, 2015.  978-1-4847-2227-5.  $18.99.  295p.

The story of Lo-Melkhiin is a cross between 1001 Arabian nights and Beauty and the Beast.  

In order to save her sister, ­­­­­the protagonist, called Al-ammiyyah (Common,) volunteers to be the 301st bride of Lo-Melkhiin., a king who is consumed by a demon.   Each night she tells a story of her life in the desert, is not afraid of her husband, and is alive the next morning.  During her castle wanderings, she finds that she has magic of her own and vows to free the monster and save the king.

This is a Middle East tale.  The desert comes so alive, we can smell and taste it.  The inherent sexism of the tribes does not seem so misogynistic, but filled with the understanding, and constant power of women.  A-ammiyyah’s tales show the power of the women around her, even over men.  However, the book reads like a fairy tale- where the reader does not really become involved with the characters, and while it is a wonderfully told story, the reader doesn’t make you feel any of the characters’ lives are important in a human sense, as fairy tales are wont to do.


Dime  by Frank, E.R.
Atheneum, 2015.  978-1-4814-3160-6.  $17.99.  314p
Thirteen-year-old Dime has been in the Foster Care System, and has been abused by it.  

She decides to run away, unfortunately trusting the first "nice" man who offers her help.  As she slowly realizes that she is being groomed as a prostitute, she also believes that this is her “family.”  She has food, a good place to sleep, and “sisters.”  When the world again falls apart, it is so difficult to watch.

Human trafficking is a popular theme currently, and this slight book brings that home once again through human interaction.  Dime is thirteen.  There are many girls in middle school like her.  The sexual situations are not graphic, but still real.  The book is not without hope, but hope is only in the background.  Dime has so much to overcome that the sheer weight threatens to drag both you and her down.

For teens looking for the feelings involved with the “why” of a teen becoming a prostitute.  Difficult to read, but important to discuss and understand.  Frank has long produced gritty, well-written novels. This BBYA selection is no exception.  It is an important book to read and discuss.  Dime’s voice will stay in your mind for a long time.

Recommended 13 up

99 Days

99 Days by Cotugno, Katie
Balzer & Bray, 2015.  978-0-06-221638-0.  $17.99  372p.  $17.99.

Molly Barlow has returned from her senior year, spent at a boarding school.  She left because of an incident involving two brothers:  one she was dating (the twin of her best friend) and one with whom she had sex.  Understandably she lost her best friend and her boyfriend.   Not understandably, her author mom used the incident to create a best-selling book so now the entire (small) town knows.  

Molly has come home to simply survive the summer before going to college.  However, the town will not let the incident rest.

Molly is hired by a newcomer who is renovating the local resort, and finds that she has a talent for this possible career.   She also finds that Patrick, her former boyfriend, has a new girlfriend, now working at the resort.  Gabe, the older brother, seems to want to befriend her, possibly being more.  Molly, needing a friend, wanting love, is pulled emotionally by both boys- again- all the while knowing it could end in disaster.

Molly is a great flawed character.  She is an intriguing, strong-willed, normal teenager.  As she alternately pulls herself into a new life and falls back into the old one, she grows as a person.  The “why” of having sex with Gabe to begin with is shrugged off, never fully explained, and remains a flaw in the story.  The character of Patrick also did not ring true, and could have been more developed. Nevertheless, we the reader develop from feeling sorry for, but not sympathetic to Molly, to cheering for her in the unexpected ending!

Recommended 8th up.

Love Fortunes and Other Disasters

Love Fortunes and Other Disasters  by Kimberly Karalius
Feiwel and Friends, 2015. 978-1-250-04720-5.  Paperback, 9.99.

Fallon Dupree is attending Grimbaud High- a Boarding School where her family has attended for generations.  

The town personifies LOVE.  Every place, every shop, every statue, every Thing is devoted to Love.  When you arrive at school, you receive your love fortune from Zita’s Love Charms Shop.  They are never wrong.  Generations of her family have found their true love here, through the fortune.  

When Fallon receives a fortune saying “your love will never be requited,” she is devastated- and decides to fight against it- joining a small group who believe Zita’s hold on the town must be broken.

This is a cute, sweet story with some interesting twists- some you see coming; others are more subtle.   An easy read that will make you chuckle, then very forgettable.  Simple kissing makes it appropriate for 6th/7th/8th grade. There are discussion questions for book groups in the end papers.  The message that your first love as a 9th grader will be your love forever, however, is just plain nauseating. 

Kissing, some violence, lots of LOVE!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


George  by Alex Gino

Fourth-grader George is a girl.  

But when everybody--including her mom, who changed her diapers as a baby--looks at George, they see a boy.  It's a problem for George.  She knows that there are other girls out there in the world like her, but she doesn't know how she will ever join them. 

When her teacher reads Charlotte's Web aloud to the class, George wants more than anything to play the role of Charlotte in the school play, but she isn't even allowed to audition for the part...because she's a boy.

Inspired by the literary character of Charlotte, George and her best friend Kelly take action that will change George's life forever...hopefully, for better.

Publishing this book as a middle-grade story that clearly skews towards a young readership allows it forgiveness for the unrealistically large number of unreasonably reasonable people portrayed in it.   Writers and storytellers know that younger audiences practically require a Very Happy Ending; however, very good writers and storytellers can provide that ending while simultaneously providing the seeds of knowledge about difficulties the characters may face after the last page.  Alex Gino pulls off the trick very nicely.  

George is a sweet book, and readers will rejoice at the end of the story, even though they know that the main character's struggles are not nearly over.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula

Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula  by Andi Watson (graphic novel)

Princess Decomposia of the Undead is overwhelmed with work.  Ghost papers to sign, alien reports to read, werewolf dignitaries to entertain...and her father the King is no help at all.  But when a vampire with a sweet tooth joins the Royal Staff, some changes are on the wing...and so is a bit of romance.

A cute love story with plenty of unexpected twists.  I've never considered Chocolate Monster Cake as a possible defense strategy for zombies...but maybe I should. 

Recommended for ages 10 to adult.  No cussing or sex, but lots of fun (un-) dead stuff.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Prom Goer's Interstellar Excursion

The Prom Goer's Interstellar Excursion  by Chris McCoy

Bennett has always loved Sophie from a distance, but he never really talked to her until the night her motorcycle broke down and they ended up walking together in the New Mexico desert.  Minutes after he gathers the courage to ask her to the prom -- and she accepts -- Sophie is abducted by aliens.

Following the close encounter, Bennett does the logical thing:  he goes for a burger at the local In-N-Out.  But the restaurant has just sold all the food in the building to a psychedelic band bus, and in short order, Bennett is on board the bus with the Perfectly Reasonable, the one-billion sixteenth most popular band in the universe.

Will Sophie ever escape from the Ecological Center for the Preservation of Lesser Species?  
Will the teens ever return to earth? 
Will bandleader Skark Zelirium ever write a new song?  

Will somebody please hand me a Babelfish?

This is the book that Douglas Adams would have written if he were writing for a teen audience.  (And if he was an American.  And if he had ever been sober sometimes.)  

It's cute, funny, quirky, and strange.  It's not nearly as funny as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,  but since nothing in the Universe is as funny as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it's not unkind to say so.  There's the sweet romance between two kids who are dying to get out of Gordo, New Mexico, and what happens after. 

Also, there's a ram in the closet.  Just in case you wondered.

Exquisite Corpse (graphic novel)

Exquisite Corpse  by Penelope Bagieu
translation by Alexis Siegel

Twenty-something Zoe is stuck in a dead-end job, with a deadbeat boyfriend and no prospects for a better future.  She doesn't read much, either, which is the reason she doesn't recognize that the oddly reclusive writer she meets by chance.  

It's also the reason that she doesn't know that the author she meets is supposed to be dead.

Sexy, poignant, and silly in spots.  The ending made me laugh.  

Though written and marketed for adults, mature teens will enjoy it.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children  by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Gabe was born Elizabeth, but he has always known that (physical characteristics to the contrary) he's a guy.  

While still in high school, he came out to his family and to his best friend Paige.  Now, he's ready to graduate and get on with his life: leave town, move to the city where nobody knows "Liz," get a job in the music industry, and leave all his problems behind him.

Funny how that doesn't quite work out.

This is one of those Important Issue Books():   Gabe is still in transition, and not everyone accepts that.  His parents say they do, but they still call him "Liz" and pretend he's a girl. Some of the faithful fans of his radio show "Beautiful Music for Ugly Children" turn against him when they find out he was born female.  And a few people in town have violent intentions.

Will this book be informative, comforting and helpful to transgender teens and their friends and family?  Yes, definitely.

Is this a great book that will stand the test of time?  No, probably not.  The plot is contrived, and several of the characters (mostly the haters) are two-dimensional and moved without motive.  Paige and Gabe's musical mentor John are well-developed, although credibility is stretched by the coincidence of having the first DJ to ever play an Elvis Presley single on the radio (who also happens to own Elvis' very first guitar) living right next door to a kid who loves Elvis.

Do I recommend this as a first purchase for library collections?  Yes, I do.  Mostly because there isn't much like it available right now, and the kids (and adults) who need it do not need to wait several years while the genre matures and improves.  

Buy it in paperback, recommend it to teens, and keep your eyes open for more books on this topic.  

Because surely there will be more.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Not If I See You First

Not If I See You First  by Eric Lindstrom

Parker Grant may be blind, but she's not dumb.  She has Rules (Chapter 3 lists them all) that she requires everybody to follow to ensure that she is as independent, smart, and capable of running her own life as possible.  She navigates the physical world pretty well, but her emotional life is a mess.  And, despite being part of a genius team of girls handing out advice to lovelorn teens in the courtyard at school, her love life is pretty pathetic.

Even her friendships with Sarah, Faith and Molly, which Parker considers to be essential to her life, have major flaws...flaws that Parker herself doesn't recognize until halfway through the book.  And what is she going to do about Jason, who is pretty cool, and Scott, whom she blames for betraying her when they were 13 years old?

The book is a compelling read that kept me up long past bedtime.  It's not perfect; there are some flaws (is there a reason  that all the Dad-characters are dead and/or run out of town? Also, the "gay kid" is kinda added-on) but the dialogue is awesome, and the insight into life as a modern blind teen was well-done.  

This review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher.  
Cover art not final (I's pretty ugly).  

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Eden West

Eden West  by Pete Hautman

Jacob is a member of the Grace living in Nodd, a 12 square mile religious compound located in Montana between a Native reservation and the Rockin' K cattle ranch.  He does not remember life in the World, and thinks himself lucky to be among the few who have rejected all Worldly things so that he will be pure for the coming of the Ark and the archangel Zerachiel.

But Jacob is 17 years old, and inevitably, his body responds to hormonal demands--he is attracted to a young woman in the compound and also to the pretty blond daughter on the neighboring ranch.  The Grace maintain their faith while beset by hardship: a bitterly cold winter, a disease among the chickens, a wolf among the sheep.  But then other tragedies strike, and Jacob finds that he must choose between the life he knows, and the World he does not know.

There are few surprises in the story, but the narrating voice of Jacob is strong, and worthy of consideration.  Often in literature, religious extremists are portrayed as simple (or crazy), and some of that is present here.  But there is a bit more.

For readers 14 to adult.  Some cussing, some kissing, and quite a few lustful thoughts.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Girl With Borrowed Wings

The Girl with Borrowed Wings  by Rinsai Rossetti
Everything Frenenqer Paje does is controlled by her father.  He has rules for how she must dress, speak, move.  She must never slam doors, or read too much, or allow milk to drip from a spoon.  She must do whatever her father thinks she must do, always.

One day, in an unprecedented act of independence, Frenenqer rescues a sickly cat from the Animal Souk...and the cat turns out to be much more than a cat.  Sangris is a Free Person, living completely without rules.  He's not even stuck in the shape of a cat--he can take the shape of a person, or a dragon, or an animal that nobody has ever imagined before.  And Sangris loves Frenenqer.

Unfortunately, "love" is against the rules made by Frenenqer's father.

Imaginative, lush, and intriguing, this unique story is not a quick read.  It will not be quick to forget, either.

No cussing, some kissing.  

The Martian

The Martian  by Andy Weir
audiobook ready by  R.C. Bray

Everybody figured that Mark Watney was dead.  The Martian astronaut's space suit was pierced by a flying piece of equipment during a sandstorm.  The suit erroneously reported that his vital signs were flat, and nobody could figure out where his body had fallen.  So the crew of Aries III left the Red Planet without him.

But Mark isn't dead.  Not yet.  He might die of starvation, or of carbon dioxide poisoning.  He might get lost on the surface with no way to find his way back to the equipment that will help him survive.  He might even die of loneliness or despair.

But he isn't dead yet.  

Apollo 13 meets MacGyver meets Robinson Crusoe in a fast-paced and believable survival story.  The audiobook read by R.C. Bray skillfully portrays the voices of a widely diverse cast of character--not just Mark Watney on Mars, but also the Aries III crew, the politicians at home in Washington, the team leaders at NASA, the orbital science geeks at JPL, and more.

Be aware that the narrative contains a sh*tload of cussing. If you were stranded alone on Mars, you'd probably cuss too.  

Highly recommended.  This book is not written for teen readers but will have lots of teen appeal, especially when the film starring Matt Damon is released in October 2015.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Falling From Horses

Falling From Horses  by Molly Gloss

In 1938, 19-year-old Bud Frazer leaves behind his parents and the Oregon ranch life he has always known, climbs on a southbound Greyhound bus headed for Hollywood, and meets Lily Shaw, who will be his friend for life.

Bud is determined to be movie stunt rider, and quickly learns that horses and stunt riders are considered cheap and disposable by movie folks.  There are always more horses that can be chased off a cliff or tripped up by wires, or ridden to exhaustion, and there are always more movie-cowboy-wannabees dumb enough to carry out the deeds for a few bucks and a chance to be seen on the silver screen.

Meanwhile, Lily experiences another side of the Hollywood scene:  the seedy side of screen writing.  Lily is determined to write, and write well...and for many reasons, she doesn't fit in with the mostly-male writers of the time.

Bud's narrative voice is strong, calm, and believable.  His account of his year in Hollywood--and the time before that, back in Oregon--reads like a memoir.  Although the story is fiction, the characters and situations are carefully researched.  The accounts of horrific abuse of horses for the amusement of moviegoers are based on true events, and these abuses continued until 1940.

Bud, however, leaves the action much sooner.

The story is quietly told, despite the hair-raising stunts performed by human and animal actors.  Bud's grief (which precedes the first page, and is revealed in flashback chapters) carries the narrative without dragging it down.  Bud's naive encounters with women add flashes of humor, but it is his fondness for Lily that keeps the sometimes-grim story from becoming overwhelmingly dismal.

Falling From Horses is the 2015 "Everyone READS" choice for Shoreline, Richmond Beach, and Lake Forest Park WA.  The book lends itself to discussion, and is recommended for teen and adult readers.

Monday, June 22, 2015

All Our Yesterdays

All Our Yesterdays  by Cristin Terrill

Em awakens (again) in a prison cell, and can't stop thinking about the tiny drain in the floor.  She makes a tool from a stolen spoon, and pries up the drain cover...and finds, hidden inside, a list of fourteen items.  Thirteen have already been crossed off.  At the bottom, in her own handwriting, Em reads the final line:  You have to kill him.

In another place, in another time, Marina is quietly in love with her next-door-neighbor, James.  James is gorgeous, brilliant...and about to make a discovery that will change everything.  And everything is just about to become much, much worse.

All the loops and potential paradoxes of time travel, plus suspenseful chasing around in the dark, romance, betrayal, torture, and a very thin hope for redemption.  This fast-moving narrative kept me up way past my bedtime.

Recommended for ages 12 to adult.  

Monday, May 11, 2015

Poisoned Apples

Poisoned Apples : poems for you, my pretty  by Christine Heppermann

After the kiss and the trip to the castle, Sleeping Beauty's day consists of showering, shaving, shampooing, conditioning....and so much more.  Little Miss Muffet signs up for a drastic diet to try to assuage decades of dairy-fed weight.  A "house of bricks" girl gradually starves herself down to mere straw.

In this poetry collection, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, the Miller's Daughter, and many other folkloric ladies are besieged by modern body image issues including eating disorders, social pressure, verbal and physical abuse, and sexual situations.  

This collection is uneven and repetitive.  Some poems are deftly created, merging a traditional tale with modern sensibilities, offering insight to both.

Other pieces clunk when they roll, with messages about fat girls, mean boys, and relentless striving to conquer societal expectations, delivered via a merciless hammer fist and no reference to any external story.

Teachers and lovers of poetry will find useful bits of brilliance here, but the verses may be best enjoyed in small tastes, rather than large gulps.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Night Thief

The Night Thief  by Barbara Fradkin
Local oddball Cedric "Ricky" O'Toole wants to know who is stealing vegetables from his garden.  A raccoon?  A bear?
Then the thief steals some horse blankets from the barn.
Not a bear, then.  A kid.
A little kid, 10 years old, who is living nearly feral in a cave in the backwoods of Ricky's farm.  Ricky does what most folks would do:  takes the kid home, feeds him, gives him a bed and some clean clothes.
But because Ricky has some baggage with Children's Services, he doesn't call the authorities. 
Then, Ricky finds the girl:  older than the boy, and with a bullet hole in her shoulder.
Now what?
A quick-moving narrative with a fast resolution, and better-than-usual quality writing for a 550-lexile book, but the author has Several. Points. To. Make. and isn't Subtle. About. Making. Them. 
An adult protagonist is not a natural main character for the intended audience, but Ricky may be enough of an outsider to adult society that teen readers will accept him.
No cussing, no kissing. The blood is old, and the dead body (when they find it) is mostly taken apart by carrion feeders. Referrals to incest and child abuse, but nothing on the page. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Eleanor and Park

Eleanor and Park  by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor is "that kid" -- the girl with the weird clothes, the weird hair, the weird family.  She will never, ever fit it to the crowd at her 1986 Nebraska high school.

The first day on the bus, the only seat available is next to Park--the only "Asian kid" she's ever known.  And he won't talk to her.

Inevitably, perhaps, the two fall in love.  Deeply, beautifully, and star-crossedly in love.

John Green, author of Fault in Our Stars​ gave the book a dazzling review.  A few parents in the Anoka-Hennepin district (Minnesota) called it dangerously obscene.  

Read it for yourself.  It's not a fast-moving, explosive, car chasing love story.  

It's the other kind.

I hope you like it as much as I did.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Washington Library Association conference 2015: here's your booklist!

SITL cover
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Mary Jo Heller
Aarene Storms 

Alexander, Shannon
Love and Other Unknown Variables

Alexie, Sherman
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

Anderson, Laurie Halse

Armentrout, Jennifer
Don’t Look Back 

Beam, Cris
I am J

Berry, Julie
All The Truth That’s In Me 

Black, Holly
Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Blume, Judy

Bray, Libba
Beauty Queens

Burgess, Melvin
Doing It

Calame, Don
Swim the Fly (series)

Chbosky, Stephen
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Coley, Liz
Pretty Girl 13

Connor, Leslie
The Things You Kiss Goodbye

Cross, Julie
Whatever Life Throws at You

Federle, Tim
Better Nate Than Ever

Fitzpatrick, Huntley
My Life Next Door

Gaiman, Neil
Ocean at the End of the Lane

Green, John & 
Levithan, David
Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Green, John
The Fault in Our Stars

Halpern, Julie
The F* It List

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

Harkness, Deborah
All Souls (series)

Higgins, Wendy
Sweet Evil (series)

Hodge, Rosamund
Cruel Beauty

Johnston, E.K.
The Story of Owen, Dragon Slayer of Trondheim    (series)

Keanneally, Miranda
Breathe, Annie, Breathe   

Lewis, R.C.
Stitching Snow

McBride, Lish
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

McCormick, Patricia

McGovern, Cammie
Say What You Will

Mathiew, Jennifer
The Truth about Alice
Mesrobian, Carrie
Sex & Violence

Meyer, L.A.
Bloody Jack (series)

Meyer, Marissa
Cinder (series)

Myracle, Lauren
The Infinite Moment of Us

Neal, Bethany
My Last Kiss

Nelson, Jandy
I’ll Give You the Sun

Niven, Jennifer
All the Bright Places

Novgorodoff, Danica
The Undertaking of Lily Chen

Nix, Garth
A Confusion of Princes

Oliver, Lauren
Before I Fall

Preston, Natasha
The Cellar (series)

Quinn, Kate Karyus
Another Little Piece

Racculia, Kate
Bellweather Rhapsody

Rosoff, Meg
How I Live Now

Roth, Veronica

Rowell, Rainbow

Seamon, Hollis
Somebody Up There Hates You

Shusterman, Neal
Unwind (series)

Sandler, Karen
Tankborn (series)

St. John Mandel, Emily
Station Eleven

Sones, Sonja
To Be Perfectly Honest

Steifvater, Maggie
Raven Boys (series)

Taylor, Laini
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (series)

Tintera, Amy

Trumble, J.H.
Just Between Us

Valentine, Genevieve
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club
Wein, Elizabeth
Code Name Verity

Westerfeld, Scott

Westerfeld, Scott

Bell, Ruth
Changing Bodies, Changing Lives

Corinna, Heather
S.E.X. : the All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College

Drill, Esther
Deal With It

Kuklin, Susan
Beyond Majenta: transgender teens speak out

Rodriguez, Gabby
The Pregnancy Project

Savage, Dan
It Gets Better

Sex in the Library: a guide to sexual content in Teen Literature  by Mary Jo Heller  and Aarene Storms ISBN: 978-1617510281

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Prairie Fire

Prairie Fire  by E.K. Johnston

​Listen!  For the Song of Owen has a second--and final--verse.

Owen Thorskard ​, Dragonslayer of Trondheim and his bard Siobhen barely survived the extermination of the dragon hatchery, and Siobhen's hands were severely damaged in the fire.  She still hears music in the world around her, but she can no longer play most of her instruments, and she can't even write the music down anymore.

And yet, she and Owen have officially joined the Oil Watch. 

Instead of being posted in a new and exotic locale, the team falls victim to political corruption and in-fighting, and are stationed in Alberta.  However, it turns out that in Alberta there are dragons everywhere.  Really nasty dragons.

A solid companion to The Story of Owen, this book does not stand alone easily.  Romances are kindled, and some go a bit further than that, but all intimacy beyond flirtation is taken tactfully off-page.  However, the dragon-killing action (and evisceration for disposal after) sweats, slashes, oozes, stinks and explodes right on the page.  Especially in the final chapters...

Recommended for readers ages 14 and up.  
I really wish somebody would produce an audiobook edition of this, it would be fabulous.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Bellweather Rhapsody

Bellweather Rhapsody, by Kate Racculia,  Kate

Fifteen years ago, a bride walked into her honeymoon room (#712) at the Bellweather Hotel, shot her husband and hung herself.  The only witness was a junior bridesmaid, Minnie Graves.  

Enter the Now.  

The Bellweather is rather rundown and now hosts the annual high school music festival.  Bassoonist “Rabbit” Hatmaker is in the orchestra section while his sister Alice is in the drama division of the festival.  New this year is director Viola Fabian, who seems to have (negative) history with everyone at the festival except the twins.  That changes when Alice finds her daughter, violinist ­­­­Jill, hanging from the lights in room 712.

Add to that a Concierge trying to hold it all together, the return of an adult Minnie Graves, a star egotistical conductor, and of course, a snowstorm.  But wait!  There’s more!  Every character is well detailed.  And everyone at the Bellweather has a secret. There are murders.  There are mysteries.  There are romances. There are even sweet moments.  There is definitely great writing.  .

This page-turner was marketed as an adult novel, but teens will love it.

For ages 14 and up.

Anything but Typical

Anything But Typical  by Nora Raleigh Baskin

12-year-old Jason Black isn't dumb.  Since his diagnosis with autism when he was four years old, Jason has been coached by counselors, teachers, doctors, assistants, and members of his family, all in an effort to help Jason seem more normal to neurotypical people.  

But most days, it's just a matter of time before something goes wrong.  

Maybe somebody is already logged into the computer he prefers at the school library.  Maybe a teacher touches his shoulder when she talks to him.  Maybe he gets so lost in his own thoughts that he tears the first page of his math book into many tiny pieces.  No matter what, Jason does not fit in. His hands flap, he makes strange noises, he makes even stranger choices.  He does not understand why neurotypical people behave the way they do, and nobody understands why he acts as he does.

The only place Jason is really comfortable is on the Storyboard writing website.  He posts his original fiction there, and interacts with other writers, especially PhoenixBird, whom he considers kind of a girlfriend although they've never met in person.

Jason explains to readers that trying to explain his actions is like trying to speak in a non-native language:  the story often conveys the sense that Jason's thoughts have lost something in translation.
Thought-provoking and intriguing, this book would be a good discussion-starter in classrooms and reading circles. A reading group guide is included at the end. 

Recommended for readers ages 10-15.  

The Carnival at Bray

The Carnival at Bray   byJessie Ann Foley

Sixteen-year-old Maggie and her nine-year-old sister have been living through her alcoholic mother’s poor choices in boyfriends since they can remember.  

But their grandmother lived in the apartment upstairs, and they could always escape there. Maggie’s uncle Kevin lives there as well, and while everyone else said he was a rock star wannabe deadbeat, Maggie adores him.  It is 1993 and Kurt Cobain reigns.

Then mom finds a new boyfriend who wants to marry her and move the family to Bray, Ireland.  Life changes in a hurry.  

Nine-year-old Ronnie thrives in the environment.  While Maggie is not popular with any clique in her new school, she does fine a friend in 99-year-old Dan Sean, and with seventeen-year-old Eoin, the grandson of the local bartendress.

Then tragedy hits, and Maggie makes a daredevil run to Rome to the Kurt Cobain concert, taking Eoin with her. 

A good story we can say little about.  

There are some predictable turns in the road, and some nice moments.  The writing is complex and strong.  It has garnered many awards.  However, how many teens will want to read about this time period?  

None of my teens even know who Kurt Cobain was- in Seattle!  This is really for older teens and adults who can stick with a book, as this one wanders slowly down that narrow Irish path.

 Recommended 14 up.