Monday, March 23, 2015

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club  by Genevieve Valentine
Jo and her sisters are known to the dancers and musicians and club owners and bartenders only as "Princess."  

They don't disclose their names to anyone, they reveal no details about themselves or their lives outside of the speakeasies.  And at the end of a night of dancing, with their shoes wearing thin, the twelve dancing princesses slip away together, disappearing into the anonymous darkness.  

With a nod to the Grimm's version of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses," twelve sisters escape imprisonment by a domineering father to the freedom of the dance halls.  Even with a fairy tale as a root story, these characters are firmly rooted in Prohibition-era New York City, and are heavily influenced by the fast-changing social landscape for women in America of the 1920's.  

Readers will keep pages turning to discover what happens to the "princesses" when their secret is discovered!

Recommended for readers ages 14 to adult.  The audiobook, deftly read by Susie Berneis, is also recommended.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hold Tight, Don't Let Go

Hold Tight, Don't Let Go : a novel of Haiti  by Laura Rose Wagner

Cousins Nadine and Magdalie have lived together as sisters their whole lives, raised by Manman in the Haitian city of Port-au-Prince.  But when the big earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, everything changed.  Manman was killed in the quake, crushed by the roof of their home.  Schools are closed.  People are afraid to sleep under a roof at night.  The girls go to live with an uncle in a tent encampment, and everyone tries (often unsuccessfully) to make life seem normal again.

When Nadine's estranged father sends for her to come to Florida, Magdalie clings to the hope that she will soon escape Port-au-Prince as well.  Gradually, however, Magdalie understands that her future must be in Haiti, and that her hope for a better life must mean a hope for a clean, prosperous Haiti.

Honest, grim, and horrible at times, this coming-of-age story is nonetheless infused with points of brightness, and clearly shows the circumstances still facing Haitians today, long after the earthquake.

Highly recommended for discussion.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

Breathe, Annie, Breathe

Breathe, Annie, Breathe   by Miranda Kenneally

“But during my first run, I only made it around the track two times…I quickly did the math.  
A marathon is the equivalent of 104 laps around the track!”    
“Two f******* laps?  That’s all I could do?”

When Annie’s ex-boyfriend dies during his training for a marathon, Annie decides she has to do a marathon for him.  As she begins her very first run around the school track, she is watched by the football coach who recommends her friend’s training business.  (yes- HER!  The football coach is a woman!! Wow!) 

Annie begins her own training as way to assuage her own guilt over her ex’s death:  guilt that we do not fully understand until the end.  We do understand Annie’s guilt over her feelings for her coach’s brother, Jeremiah, and Jere carries his own baggage.

This romance is a perfect up-and-down-realistic look at teens.  It is a very realistic look at the horrible situation of a first love dying a sudden death.  It is also a very realistic portrayal of the training a teen needs to run a marathon. 

Annie is not a very good runner, and never really likes it.  She is just driven.  In fact, passages can really help you to decide this would NOT be a good play selection.  Some readers will be rooting for Annie to quit.  At what point are you simply torturing your body?  What a great flawed heroine!

I had not realized this was the fifth book in a series when I read it.  It easily stands alone.

Recommended for mature teens.

Don't Look Back

Don’t Look Back   by Jennifer Armentrout

Samantha has it all: trendy queen of the school, popular boyfriend, doting parents, popular best friend.  

Then her best friend disappears.  

Sam wanders back several days later with amnesia, having been with her best friend the night she disappeared, and readers gradually learn that nothing is typical after all (of course.)  

Sam fears she is dealing with a killer, who knows she might remember that night anytime.  Someone who is now leaving her threatening notes.  As part of her  “new life,” Sam takes a second look at her popular boyfriend, her former best friend, and a possible love interest, an Hispanic boy, Carson, who lives on their estate.  

Her twin brother would like to help, but doesn’t trust the “new” Samantha.  Unfortunately, the past reveals that Carson could be the killer; or could it be Sam herself? The list of suspects is very long for the former Queen Bee.  Is she remembering or having hallucinations? 

While the “do over” possibility could be formulaic, Sam makes the complex transition by a real examination of her life, right down the possibility of being the killer herself.

Although the rich vs poor theme gets old, Sam herself is the perfect flawed heroine.  The fact that she has amnesia allows Sam to take a look at her former life and decide where she wants her life to move and who she wants to be and be with.  It is a do-over possibility for a flawed heroine who is also very realistic. 

Suspense, romance, thrilling ending.  Experienced readers will anticipate the ending, but still enjoy the ride.  What more do you want from a teen fast read?

One last word:  as opposed to standard teen book jackets, this cover is really worth a second look.  What do you see?

Ages 12 up.