Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Zombies Vs. Unicorns - Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black

This is a book I'd been hearing a lot about because of the authors that I follow on Twitter. I guess the idea for the book started out by an argument between these two authors, Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black, about which were better, unicorns or zombies. This led to several short stories being written by several different YA authors.

Now, I honestly have to say, I was a little leery about the book. While I do enjoy zombie movies, and have enjoyed a few zombie books, I just assumed I'd be more on Team Unicorn, because of when I was a little girl and all the unicorn and rainbow stickers I had. I have to admit that I leave the book more Team Zombie, but not completely unsympathetic to the Team Unicorn.

Starting the book did nothing to relieve my leeriness. The first unicorn story actually is a bit of a zombie story, and while somewhat interesting, kind of made me say ho-hum. The second story, a zombie story, (they alternate), I didn't quite feel was maybe teen appropriate? I don't know, the language and some of the storyline was a bit shocking after the unicorn story. And hey, we're talking zombie stories, so there you go. The next story, unicorn story, also was kinda dumb in my opinion, but then, we got to the zombie story by Carrie Ryan, and I was hooked. From then on the stories got better and better, ending with two really good ones. Since Carrie Ryan did hook me with her story, it is only one more reason that I must soon read her book The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

So, I will recommend this book to teens, and tell them that the first 2 or 3 stories just get you a taste of what unicorns and zombies are about. Keep reading through those, it gets a lot better!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Flappers: Vixen by Jillian Larkin

I found this sitting in the stack of ARC's at the bookstore a couple weeks ago. I took it home, but wasn't quite in the mood for it until I finished the Mortal Instruments series. It wasn't too bad of a book. I enjoyed reading about the time period.

Basically we follow 3 girls that are "flappers". The first is Gloria. Gloria is a society girl getting ready to marry a high society man. Turns out though that her family is having problems, and she needs this marriage to help them. But Gloria wants to live free, be a flapper, go to speakeasies, and is actually attracted to the wrong kind of man for this time period.

Her best friend Lorraine is actually more of a trendsetter, drinking, gets the bob first, and dressing quite stylishly, or scandalously in this case. But Lorraine is jealous of Clara, and her jealousy will do their friendship in.

And finally there is Clara, Gloria's "country cousin" sent by her parents to help make sure the wedding goes off without a hitch. Clara however was sent here due to her own bad judgement and dipping into the whole flapper scene in New York. We learn that her past is not one she is proud of, but in Chicago, Clara finally finds that she might fit in if she reinvents herself. At least until all the dirty secrets from her past come out.

I'm assuming the series will go on to follow where each of them go after this book. But maybe not. Maybe each book will follow three new flappers? Guess we'll have to wait and see. I may or may not continue with the series. It won't be something I'll buy, only check out for free. But I will recommend it to more mature readers at my school who enjoy the historical information and the romance.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Waiting On Wednesday - City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

Waiting on Wednesday is a Weekly Event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

So, as I just blogged, I am now a fan of the Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare. There's not a lot I know about the new one, because I hadn't been following Cassandra Clare on Twitter as she was posting excerpts. Also, I read the hardcover edition of City of Glass, and it was the paperback version that had a chapter in the back. Of course I can always read that at the store.

SPOILER: Now that we know Jace and Clary can be together, I am looking forward to reading on and seeing where things go. So, I'll be waiting till April 5th, 2011 for this. As good as the book is, it is not one that I am dying to have to read now. So it will be nice when it comes out to have it to read.

The Mortal Instruments Series 1-3 by Cassandra Clare

Okay, because I'm so behind on blogging, and I read all three of these books right in a row, I'm going to do a blog about all of them at the same time.

I follow the author of these, Cassandra Clare, on Twitter, and I have been reading all her fans comments and the books are there at the store with a jacket blurb from Stephenie Meyer (authoer of the Twilight series). So, I decided to pick one up when I finished with my Gateway nominees. And I was hooked. Now, there may be some spoilers in this if you haven't read these yet, so keep that in mind as you read on.

Our main character is Clary. We start out with Clary going to a club with her best friend Simon. This guy catches her attention, and she kind of follows him when she notices these three tough looking young people follow him into a back room. Turns out the cute guy is a demon, these three tough people are ShadowHunters, or Nephilim. When Clary's mother disappears, and Clary gets attacked, it turns out that she too is one of the ShadowHunters, because her mother was. Jace, Alec, and Isabelle are the three Shadowhunters she sees. She is soon tied up in this world. She has a bit of a crush on Jace. We learn her friend Simon has a bit of a crush on her. So, we have a love triangle. As we go through the books we learn that the evil person in the Shadow Hunter world was a man named Valentine. Also a Shadow Hunter, but one who wanted to rid the world of ALL downworlders, which are vampires, werewolves, fairies, and warlocks. So, as I read in many reviews, this sounds a little like Voldemort in Harry Potter. Then, I feel a bit of a Star Wars connection as we learn that Jace is Valentine's son, but so is Clary. So it's like Luke and Leah. SPOILER!: We learn in the third book though, that Jace is not actually Valentine's son, so the romance is okay. But while I kind of assumed that this must be coming at some point, because of the continued romantic feelings between the two, for awhile that was just kind of icky. So I was very glad in the 3rd one when it turned out they weren't related.

I also kind of wonder, these are people with angel blood, and Jace's name is Jace because of his initials are JC. Um, Jesus Christ? Hmm.

I did enjoy this series, and as you can see from the next blog I'm going to post, my Waiting on Wednesday post, that I will continute to read it. I'm not sure if I'm going to read the prequel, or I will at some point, but no hurry for now. So, I will recommend it, and I will continue to read it, but you have seen my comparisons and my questions, so judge for yourself.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Hollywood Ending by Robyn Sisman

My latest chick lit read. It was okay. It's kind of hard for me to relate to a movie star main character, but I did enjoy the setting of her moving to London. It's always fun to think about moving to a foreign country and falling in love. It was a bargain book, so cheap, so worth the money. Not sure if I will seek ou any more by this author, but would probably read if it was cheap.

The main character is Paige, who goes off to London to try Shakespeare on stage after having some issues with a leading man in her latest movie. There she stays in Ed's hhome that he rents out the main floors of. Ed is a documentary maker, and he is not looking forward to having a spoiled American starlet in his home. He also is trying to sell his company which is on the verge of financial problems.

Of course the two opposites are attracted to each other, and through trials and mishaps they fall in love.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Paranormal State by Ryan Buell

I'm so behind on blogging! I actually have 4 other books to post about AFTER this one. Oh well, I'll try to get one tomorrow, and two on Tuesday as I don't work at all on Tuesday and should be done grading for my online teaching job for the next 2 weeks by then.

So, I remember when I heard Ryan Buell was going to be writing a book. I was very excited. And the date in the computer at work kept getting moved back. Finally, this past September came, and it was released. And I, well, I was broke, and couldn't buy it right away. Then, I bought it, but because of reading for the Gateway nominee list, I wasn't quite sure when I could fit it in. But it was the first book I picked up to read after all the Gateway nominees were read. And I really have to say I enjoyed it.

I do love Paranormal State. Some people have said it is boring, and I can see their point. No, it is not all sensationalized like the Ghost Hunters show is. But, that is a reason I can't hardly watch Ghost Hunters, but love Paranormal State. When something happens on Paranormal State, you see it, and don't doubt it. There have been some really spooky episodes. This book goes through all the episodes and cases from the first season. The first thing that really stood out to me was learning about where the term "dead time" came from. Dead time is the time on the show when they go to different parts of the house/building, and try to communicate with the ghosts, or find evidence. So, you would assume, dead time, means communicating with the dead. It's usually around midnight, often around 3 am, the time which is said to be opposite of when Jesus died on the cross and the time when evil comes into the world. But, this is not where this name actually came from on the show. To Ryan and the rest of the PRS staff, it meant turning off all cell phones and other electrical equipment that could cause false readings or noises to occur and blow any chance of real evidence.

It was very interesting to hear about things that you didn't get to see on the show because of trying to fit it all into the half hour time slot they have. So many more details, or evidence to the contrary of an actual haunting.

The other entry I really enjoyed reading about was when Christopher Moon was on the show and brought the Frank's Box. This was neat to me because I have attended two separate ghost hunting classes and weekends with Christopher Moon, and he really got me interested into the scientific aspect of ghost hunting. All the stuff he talked about at the weekends, or most of it, really made sense based on the things we know about physics and the physical world. Now, this Frank's Box. I totally agree with several of the things Ryan and the other PRS members said about this in the book. First, Chris tends to immediately interpret what is heard out of the Box. Whether people agree or not, I think everyone should hear what they think, then compare. My thought on Frank's Box, it uses radio waves. And knowing, again with physics, that radio waves just keep going forever, there are waves bouncing around out there all the time, why does it mean it is a spirit, and not just what is coming through that area at the time? I have great respect for Chris Moon, don't get me wrong, this just brought up my questions about the Frank's Box. I would still definitely attend a ghost hunting weekend in Iowa with Chris Moon again.

Anyway, if you are a fan of the show, or ghost hunting in general, this is a very interesting book in my opinion. I do love that Ryan Buell is a fan of many of my favorite things as well, Buffy the Vampire Slayer being one of them, his dog is named Xander, after one of the BTVS characters. I do not enjoy always reading Buell's very liberal political views on Twitter. But hey, that's his opinion, and I have mine, and differences in political opinions to me, is not a good reason to not like or be friends with someone, so, I just read past those for his ghost related posts. Now I'm just waiting for the show to start up again. Hoping this season isn't already over, that there will be more episodes coming up in the next year.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Gateway 26: After by Amy Efaw

Wow, finally I am done with reading the nominees for next year's Gateway Award list. And just in time, my ratings are due on December 1st!

And let me say, what an intense book to end on. In fact, I'm somewhat surprised that we have this book in my middle school library. It is really such a teen girl topic. The main character is Devon. We start out with Devon laying sick in her apartment when her mom comes home from work. Devon is having flashbacks, and it turns out, she's just given birth in her own bathroom. And apparently put the baby in a trash bag and threw it out. Devon seems to be suffering from memory loss/amnesia. She doesn't remember being pregnant, or giving birth, or any of it for a long time. Well, I say a long time, but really the whole book takes place over a 2-3 week time span, other than the flashbacks Devon has.

This book is really intense in talking about the whole situation. Goes into deep detail with the baby being born and how Devon dealt with all of it.

It's really sad. I actually felt empathy for Devon. I know that what she did was horrible. But as I assume the author meant, you get her side of the story, you understand that what she did wasn't premeditated, or selfish exactly, she was operating in a state of shock basically since the moment that the whole issue began, her first sexual experience.

Very intense, just very intense. I felt sorry for the way she was treated by the people, even after they knew what she'd been like, that she'd been a model student, athlete, even babysitter. So for people to just assume she was horrible and treat her that way was hard to read. But understandable on their part as well for what she had done. The decision Devon comes to at the end, I don't know that I would have come to. But I understand why she, or the author, decided that way.

Good, but intense story.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gateway 25: Brutal by Michael Harmon

FINALLY! A female main character! And really, this was a good book. Our main character is Poe, yes, named after Edgar Allan Poe. Her mother, a really good doctor, has decided to move to some third world country to take care of patients there, and so has shipped Poe off to live with the father she doesn't remember, in a small town. She's used to living in LA and being part of a punk rock band. However, Poe has also been kicked out of many schools. Poe gets to the small town and finds out her father is the counselor at her new school. She meets the boy who lives next door and goes by the name Velveeta. He's a little bit off, and as you'd expect, he gets bullied, a lot. Poe makes friends with the mayor's son Theo. Theo is also a bit unusual for the town.

Poe comes across the school bully really beating Velveeta up and stops it. Later on, she does slaps the bully's girlfriend, who then won't tell him who it was that did it, so he assumes it was Velveeta. He and other football players pull Velveeta in the bathroom and he begins beating him up very brutally. Only the fact that Poe finds out and tries to stop it, screaming loud enough that a teacher hears, stops it. But because Velveeta and the other witnesses all refuse to say what actually happened, no one can do anything about it. So the school tries to have a bully awareness assembly, but of course the only people who show up since it is not mandatory are those who are being bullied.

Poe gets angry. A lot of what she says in this book is really true. And I agree a lot with her. She even points out something I've always noticed. Some of the "odd" or outside of the popular people are just as cliquey and judgemental as the people they claim are that way. But what it takes Poe a bit to see is that she is just as judgemental and elitist about those people as she claims they are. But she does realize it, and that is what I like.

With the bullying going on at my school this year, it was really good to read this book. I think that it is true that there are so many things that make it impossible for schools to do anything, I'm not saying this is good or acceptable, just that it is true. And it sucks. In the end there is a pretty good solution, but it sucks that it often has to go that far, or that it doesn't ever get taken to the point where something can happen to change it.

Only one more book for me to read on the Gateway Award nomination list. Can't wait till I can read something of my choosing! And I'm thinking it will not be a YA book for a few weeks, or few books, whichever comes first or last.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gateway 24: If I Grow Up by Todd Strasser

So, I was really excited to read this book because one of the other books by this author is one of the best YA novels there is in my opinion. It was also made into an awesome After School Special when I was a kid as well. Todd Strasser is the author of The Wave. About a teacher who starts an experiment in the school that simulates the holocaust. And it is a very touching, haunting book in how realistic it is.

So, I'm sure this book is also very realistic, even though I have some complaints about it. In If I Grow Up, our main character is DeShawn (another male protagonist, go figure). DeShawn lives in a project where the Disciples are the gang to be a part of. Their rivals are the Gentry Gangsters from another nearby project. We go through DeShawn's life quickly from the time he is 12, and the last chapter is when he is 28 and in prison. It starts out that everyone knows DeShawn is different, smart, he could go somewhere. But as it always goes, he eventually gets swept into the gang. He resists a long time, until his family doesn't have enough food and he catches his sister drinking her own baby's formula. He isn't a normal kind of gangster who kills, at least not at first. He's kind of the brains that the head guy, Marcus, looks to for answers. Marcus is kind of a father figure to him. Marcus seems to really be above it all, and be fair, to the extent you can say that for a gangbanger. But when Marcus is shot, DeShawn learns Marcus was only 21, not as much older as he assumed from his "wiseness".

I understand this is what really happens. But I also know DeShawn had some chances that he chose not to take due to peer pressure. So, hey, you get what you get based on your own decisions sometimes. My opinion. I think it is horrible that this goes on, but I don't feel it is impossible to get out of. It is difficult I'm sure. But it can be done, and does get done. We just don't always hear about those stories because they are so few and far between. What's familiar and easy is just what people tend to do. So, that's what happens.

Okay book I guess.

Gateway 23: King of the Screwups by K.L. Going

This was a pretty good book. I really had trouble putting it down at times. The main character is Liam, which is a name I really like, yeah, I know, short for William. But I like just Liam. Anyway, Liam has screwed up parents. You'd think a former supermodel for a mother and an extremely successful and wealthy CEO for a father would make a kid happy. But not Liam. His father is constantly disappointed in him, but really, Liam is a lot like his mother. It's amazing that his father loves his mother, but can't love the same things about his son. After getting in trouble over and over, his father kicks him out. He wants to send Liam to his parents, who treat Liam just as bad as his dad does. But his mom arranges to have Liam sent to his father's brother. His uncle is, or used to be, a drag queen. He is in a Glam rock band and lives in a trailer in a small town. Liam calls him Aunt Pete. Liam decides in order to make his dad proud, he will be unpopular and involved in an academic club like his dad was in high school. See, that is Liam's "curse" if you will. He is too good at being popular. And it takes nothing for him to become popular at this new school. He wants so bad to make friends with the girl who is a social outcast that lives next door to his Aunt Pete. But that doesn't seem in the cards either.

All that Liam does, and finally he thinks his dad is coming to visit and talk for his birthday. But instead, his dad sends an army recruiter. Now Liam must decide whether to join the army and maybe please his dad, or do what he is good at and know that he is good enough and loved by his aunt/uncle and others in his family.

Really a pretty good story.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2011 Debut Author Challenge

I have decided to sign up for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge. Seeing that I only have to read like 12 books within a 1 year period, and that I spent the last 3 months reading 26, or will have read 26 after 3 more, I feel this is not going to be a problem, and should be fun! This challenge is through The Story Siren.

The books I'm hoping to read, as long as I can get a hold of them are:

1. XVI by Julia Karr

2. So Shelly by Ty Roth

3. Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach

4. Wither by Lauren DeStefano

5. Entwined by Heather Dixon

6. Those that Wake by Jesse Karp

7. Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

8. The Revenant by Sonia Gensler

9. Never Sit Down in a Hoop Skirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell by Crickett Rumley

10. Dark Parties by Sara Grant

11. The Circle Cast: The Lost Years of Morgan le Fay by Alex Epstein

12. Ashfall by Mike Mullin

There are many more on the list I may read, I just need to read these 12 by next December! Wish me luck! By that time I'll be done with Gateway, and will be ready for more YA novels.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Gateway 22: Gray Baby by Scott Loring Sanders

Yet another male protagonist. But this was a good one. I thought from the premise that it was more historical fiction, but not really, and that is kind of sad. The main character is Clifton. His mom is white and his dad is black. When he was 6, in the 80's I believe, he watched his father be beaten to death by two police officers. It was later deemed to be an accident. Of coures this totally messes up Clifton as well as his mother, who turns to drinking once she determines Clifton will be okay. Clifton is lonely though, so he begins throwing bottles with notes into the river. Hoping that whoever finds it will write him back. And someone does. An old guy named Swamper. So, a bit nervously, Clifton sets out to meet Swamper. And it turns out, they get along great! Swamper teaches him about his fishing methods, and even starts letting Clifton have some of the money he makes for helping him.

Some big things happen, a girl gets kidnapped, and Clifton sees the girl in an ice cream truck. Clifton is scared to tell the police for two reasons. One, he does not trust them after what happened to his dad, and two, the guy knows where he lives and threatens to come back and get him if he tells.

At the same time Clifton's mother gets arrested for DUI. So Clifton goes to stay with Swamper, who we learn has a bigger stake in all this than he lets on.

A really good story in my opinion. I enjoyed it.

Gateway 21: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

First I have to say as I was titling this blog post that I think I've messed up my numbering on these Gateway posts. But finally, a female protagonist!

This was a pretty interesting book. The main character is 17 year old Mia. She is a musician with a promising future and a rock band boyfriend, as well as a wonderful family and an awesome best friend. At the beginning of the book they have a snow day and since school is cancelled the family decides to take a drive. On the drive they have a wreck. Mia comes to standing outside the car. She sees her father and mother are both dead. She soon learns her younger brother has been taken to a close hospital where she has been taken farther away because of the condition she is in. The whole story is told from Mia's viewpoint as she watches over her body and what is going on around it. It's really a very short time period, but we get lots of flashbacks to learn about her and her life.

The title refers to something a nurse says that first day, that it is not up to the doctors whether Mia makes it, but up to her. She must decide to stay or go. We get to hear her friend, family, and boyfriend all plead for her to stay. The part that made me choke up was when her grandfather tells her that as much as he wants her to stay, he understands if she wants to go having lost her family. The author puts it much better, but I totally almost cried at this point.

I've seen this book at the bookstore where I work. Without actually reading the book's information, I just assumed it might be about suicide. But it's not really, just Mia deciding whether it is worth coming back to life after such a loss. In the end, it's almost as if she doesn't get to make the choice, that it's made for her. But I won't spoil it for you. Read it.

I've also attached both the cover pictures, the blue one is for the hard cover, and the girl's face is the paperback. I actually like the paperback cover better.

Gateway 20: Diary of a Witness by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Yet another male protagonist. Maybe I just saved all those, stupidly, for the last books I would read? So far a lot of the books are about nerds. In this case it is a boy, overweight, named Ernie, and his best friend Will. They get picked on and beat up by the jocks in their school. The story is told from Ernie's viewpoint as if he is writing in a journal that his Uncle Max, who is a writer, gave him and asked him to write in.

Both boys like to fish. At the beginning of the book, Will has convinced Ernie to try it his way, out on the ocean. So they go out on Will's father's boat, with Will's younger brother Sam, who Will doesn't like, and the feeling is kind of mutual for Sam. Will's dad leaves them to go alone, while he goes to a bar to drink. A big wave comes up, and the boat tips over due to Will trying to get a big fish he has always wanted to get. Will and Ernie make it, Sam gets stuck under the boat, his pants caught on a fish hook, and drowns.

Will's father gets sent to jail, and we learn what a messed up life Will has. After some other bullying type issues happen at school, Will tries to kill himself. Ernie figures out something like this is happening and calls 911 to save him.

After Will gets out of the hospital, Ernie takes him up to stay at his Uncle Max's. This is a great time for Will, but as they get ready to go back home, back to Will's unhappy life, Will takes a turn for the worse. I like that Ernie is able to stand up to his friend, doing the right thing. I think this had a good message.

Well, I've been busy reading, and not had time to do much blogging. So I've got 2 more books to blog about later tonight if I have time. Trying to get the rest of the books done by December 1st.

Gateway 19: Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan

Yet another male protagonist book for the Gateway possible nominees. This book was okay. The main character is Blake, and as you might guess from the title or the cover, he is into photography. He has a girlfriend and yet he also has a really good friend, who is a girl, in his photography class. Blake tends to take what his photography teacher calls "gritty" photos. And in one of them he has found his photo friend Marissa's mother. Marissa's mother is a meth addict. Marissa goes to find her, and brings her home. Her mother goes to rehab. During this time Blake has normal dealings with a girlfriend, and the girlfriend sometimes feels a little jealous of Marissa. In a way, this is very similar to the book I read a while back about the mountain, I think it was called "Funny How Things Change." A guy, a girlfriend, and another girl.

So, not a favorite or extremely original book in my opinion. If you read it though, and like it, here is the author's website:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gateway 18: The Devil's Paintbox by Victoria McKernan

I love, love, loved this book! It was another male main character, but I think I must really enjoy historical fiction, something I never knew I enjoyed really before I was an adult. Our main character is Aiden. We meet him and his sister Maddie trying to find grasshoppers to eat while they're living in Kansas, in the dustbowl time. The rest of their family is dead, they've had to bury their siblings, older and even newborn babies. They also buried both parents. When we start the story, a man is riding through looking for people he can take west to be loggers. Aiden sees a chance and convinces Mr. Jackson to take him and his sister, saying he will work off the money it costs him. Over the passage they face all kinds of hardships, and run into Indians, Native Americans, whatever you want to call them. The Nez Pearce to be exact, a peaceful tribe. As they head to Seattle, there are all kinds of tragedies and scares, a river that is not going to let them cross. A small pox epidemic, and even soldiers that want to kill the Indians that have showed up to help them. When Aiden finally gets to the logging camps he has been through so much misery and loss that he is only relieved to give in to the pain and no thinking life of logging. He becomes a fighter in the camp, to make more money. One of his Indian friends comes back at the end to ask his help in obtaining the small pox vaccine. I always knew that our diseases were part of what killed off a lot of the Native Americans, but didn't realize that part of the reason was that we refused to share our vaccine with them.

I like how at the end the author talks about the historical things in the story, even gives websites for readers to go read further about these topics. This is one I really will recommend highly for next year's Gateway List.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gateway 17: Funny How Things Change by Melissa Wyatt

Another male protagonist. Go figure. This book was not a favorite of mine. It was kind of boring to me. Our main character is Remy Walker. His family has owned the mountain he lives on for generations. His girlfriend, Lisa, is going away to college next year, and wants Remy to go with her, they will get an apartment and he can work while she goes to school. But really he does not want to. He can't afford it, and the only way he will be able to afford it is if his dad does the unthinkable and sells the mountain. And for awhile, Remy thinks this is the way to go. A new girl, college age, has come to town to paint the water tower. Remy finds himself somewhat attracted to her, which of course is a problem since he believes himself to be in love with Lisa.

Basically it was a quick story of letting your family and past win out over what seems like it will be what you need, to get away. I don't know that the students would really enjoy it. There are much better books on the list of possible nominees.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gateway 16: We Were Here by Matt De La Pena

Once again, another boy protagonist. A Mexican boy again strangely enough. Seems like a theme, although I guess this is really on the 2nd one on the list. This was a pretty good book. I do like again how this is a boy that knows it isn't cool to read and be smart, but still does it on the sly. Our main character is Miguel. Miguel starts out in Juvie, then shortly after is sent to a group home. We get the idea that he did something violent. We learn a lot about his brother Diego, who he idolizes. There are 2 other boys at the group home that he becomes friends with unintentionally through the fact that they all decided to run from the group home and go to Mexico. It is on the journey that we learn about all of them. Mong, the seemingly psycho boy that Miguel gets in a fight with almost as soon as he walks into the group home. Mong is life-threatiningly sick we find out. And Rondell, a big black kid, that actually was Miguel's roommate when he got to Juvie, and he always calls Miguel, Mexico, even though Miguel has always lived in the United States. Rondell is not quite all there, and when he gets into a rage, he will keep beating until someone dies.

I kind of guessed what Miguel did before he actually confessed to it, in fact, I caught on pretty quick. I won't give it away in case you're going to read it. A good book, but violent at times. Again, the next book I even picked up is also a male protagonist. Pretty sure, if I get these last 10 books done in the next 20 days, I'll read a really girly book after. :-)

Waiting on Wednesday: Crunch Time by Diane Mott Davidson

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

I haven't done this in a while, for two reasons. One, I've been pretty busy with the new online class I'm teaching. And two, I haven't been quite sure what books I'm waiting on. But I decided to see when the next book by Diane Mott Davidson was going to be out. I'm not a huge mystery genre fan. But for some reason I just love these books. I do love reading the recipes, and I think occasionally of trying to make them. But seeing as how our main character, Goldie, is a caterer, these are really complicated recipes. One day, though, I will try them.

Right now I can't find a synopsis on the book, so I'll give you a little more background on the series. Goldie is our heroine, when we first meet her, she has divorced her abusive husband and is trying to raise her son Archie on her own with her catering career. She calls her ex-husband "The Jerk" along with another of his ex-wives, Marla, her best friend. It never fails, Goldie tends to find dead bodies wherever she goes to cater. She then wants to solve the mysteries herself, and she does this despite the wishes of detective Tom Schultz. Later in the books Goldie and Tom get married, and of course her sleuthing continues. One other main character is Julian, a young man she mentors in cooking, and he is also a genius in cooking.

I don't know why, but I just love these books, and cannot wait for the next to come out. While I'm glad she takes the time to make each one really good, sometimes I wish she was one of those authors who puts out a book every year so I wouldn't have to wait for my mystery fix. Unfortunately I'll be waiting until April 2011 for this release.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Gateway 15: Reality Check by Peter Abrahams

I'm beginning to feel like most of the Gateway nominees have male protagonists. Not sure, I'm going to look through them again to make sure, but right now I feel like all my stories I'm reading are about boys. I've got 10 more to get read this month, so I guess I'd better get going!!

Anyway, I've seen books by this author at my bookstore, but never read any. This one was okay. The main character is a high school junior, boy, who is a football player. His girlfriend is from a wealthy family. And at the end of sophomore year, her father finds her and Cody together, and then when he sees Clea's grade card, with a low grade for her, a B, he decides to send her away to boarding school. Cody decides to break up with Clea instead of trying to have a long distance relationship.

Well, early into the football season, Cody, who has already had scouts talk to him about college, gets an injury that puts him out for the rest of the school year football season. Soon Cody decides to quit school. About the time he makes this decision, there is a news story that Clea has gone missing. Cody goes to the town of her new boarding school to try to help in the search.

Of course once he gets there, at first he doesn't want to tell anyone who he is. He had received a letter from Clea right before he left, and it mentions that she doesn't know who to trust. So Cody is unsure who he should trust. He meets her classmates, including her new boyfriend, as well as teachers and the people who work at the stable where she keeps her horse. He also meets two different cops, and doesn't know which one is giving him the real truth. Cody gets really close to the answer, and then of course, gets himself in trouble as well.

A good mystery, not sure it is award winning material though.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Gateway 14: Muchacho by Louanne Johnson

I have to admit I was not looking forward to this book. It didn't sound good. Boy was I wrong. Maybe if I'd paid attention to who it was written by, the same woman who wrote the memoir that became the movie Dangerous Minds, I would have known better.

This book is told from a Mexican boy's point of view. His name is Eddie. He has a rough life. He's been sent to a special school because of his anger and fighting. He has lots of things in his life that work to try to keep him from finishing school. But Eddie is a secret reader. Eddie is a secret writer as well.

What I loved about this book, from the first page I was hooked. When he began talking about the teacher that kind of really inspired him throughout this book. And how she got kicked/chased out, and while he did nothing to stop it, or let her know at the time that she did reach him, throughout the book he references things she did or talked about with them.

And I love that this book is written just how I'm sure most students think. I can hear these same ideas coming from the things my students say. The why do we need to know this? I know it was written by a teacher/adult, but I also am sure she based it on those writings from her students and how she knew them from working with them. I do love how the kids says testing is ruining school even for the students who like it. Something I am wholly onboard with.

Other than a bit of language and risque themes, but still all realistic for high school kids, this is one of my highest recommendations for the Gateway list for next year. I loved, loved, loved, loved it!!! Might even have it as a staff rec at the bookstore at some point.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Matched by Ally Condie

This is another of the Penguin teen advance reader books I had to read. And I loved it! It's set in the future. Our main character is Cassia. We first meet Cassia on her way to her Match Banquet. In this future society, everyone is matched sometime during their 17th year. They get to wear a really fancy dress for the night instead of their normal basic clothes that are the same as everyone else. They get to have really fancy food, instead of the normal just what is needed food rations each person gets. At the banquet they call each girl, and then the screen shows the match live from all around the different boroughs. Only in Cassia's case, something that has never happened before, or at least not in a very long time happens. She is matched with her best friend, someone from the same borough, Xander (I just love that name!). When they're matched they're given a little data card to look through and learn about their match, since usually they don't know them. Cassia waits to check hers, but when she does, just for the fun of it, after Xander's face pops up, it goes blank. Then, another face appears, another boy she knows, Ky. Because she's played the card in the house computer, it's no secret. An Official shows up and collects the card and tells her it was a mistake. She now learns that Ky is an Aberration. He is not ever supposed to be matched.

This of course has intrigued and made Cassia wonder who she is really supposed to be matched with.

This futuristic world, or Utopia in a way you might say, is just incredible to read and think about. To save Society, they have gotten rid of all but 100 paintings, 100 poems, 100 books, etc. When you reach the age of 80, you will die. You live a very healthy, full life until then. But we get to experience Cassia's grandfather's final banquet. Every person carries a container with pills, 1 when they're really young, 2 when they get to be teens, and a 3rd, red pill when they become adults. WE find out later in the later part of the book what the red pill is for. We find just how far this Society will go to make sure their rules and ideas are followed.

This was a really good book. I don't know that they definitely left it open for a sequel. It could have one. Or it could just leave off the way it did. Either way would probably be fine. In fact, I sometimes think it is okay to just end instead of having to continue all stories. This is supposed to come out at the end of November, and I may put it as one of my staff recs at the bookstore at that time.

Herself by Leslie Carroll

This was my latest chick lit book. It took longer because of course I'm trying to get through the Gateway nominees pretty quickly. Other than I didn't necessarily connect with the main character Tessa Craig because of her age and job, I love what she did. When her politician boyfriend basically ends their relationship, she decides she can't work for him as his speech writer anymore, and she takes a trip to, wait for it, Ireland! The place I want to go so bad! And, she meets an Irish guy who is funny and a charmer, and falls instantly in love with her! Totally what I always daydream will happen if I ever visit Ireland. He follows her back to America where it all turns out pretty good.

All in all, I really, really enjoyed it because it was totally one of my daydreams written out in a book. This is the 3rd book I've read by this author, and I've enjoyed all of them.

Gateway 13: hold still by Nina LaCour

I know, I've been so busy it's been a way long time since I've blogged. And in that time I have 3 books to blog about. Here is number 1.

As you can see it was on the Gateway nominee list. And while it was a good book, all I can say is WOW! These books are sooooo depressing and sad! I know that teens seem to like these books, but it's kind of bringing me down to read these. Anyway, here's the review.

Our main character is Caitlin. Her best friend Ingrid has committed suicide, and as you would expect, it has really messed up Caitlin. She didn't know her friend had emotional issues, and had suffered from them forever. We are with Caitlin through summer, as she spends most of the time in her car. When she goes back to school the next year, she makes a new friend, but then loses the new friend when she decides to pull back into her shell. She gets a boyfriend too. She has trouble in her once favorite class, photography, because she and Ingrid had been the best students in the class before, and now her teacher is treating her differently. And then, Caitlin finds Ingrid's journal stashed way underneath her bed. And as she reads through it, she goes through all kinds of emotion, guilt, anger, sadness, and finally coming to terms with what Ingrid has done in the best way she can.

So of course, a good, uplifting ending, just a really sad book to try to get through.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Gateway 12: Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have by Allen Zadoff

This wasn't a bad story, don't get me wrong, it was just kind of predictable and eh. The main character is Andrew Zansky, who weighs over 300 pounds as a sophomore in high school. He met a girl the weekend before school started back up, and then she shows up at his school. She says she likes people for who they are, not for being popular, but then, her actions don't back up her words. So, Andrew goes out for the football team instead of doing model UN with his best friend as they'd planned all summer. All of a sudden he's popular, but the girl is also getting popular, and she's in love with the star QB, who Andrew is friends with and helping with school stuff.

We do have a bit of a twist in my opinion when we find out there was some planning and that Andrew joining the team was kind of a plan by the coach and others. And like many other books I've read, the parents are having problems and getting divorced. Yeah, yeah, I know, lots of kids deal with that, I'm the child of divorced parents myself. But it would be nice once in awhile to have some happy parents, even divorced and remarried they could be happy parents, like mine were.

So this won't be a very high recommendation from me for the Gateway nominees.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gateway 11: The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford

This book was okay. The story was somewhat interesting. Obviously anyone who is interested in mysteries and detective stories will enjoy it. And I wanted to really like it for that reason alone. But all in all, it was kind of eh. I rated it lower because I didn't feel it was probably going to have that interesting of a story line for teenagers. I also don't like that the main characters, just graduated from high school, are drinking beer and going to a bar. Yeah, I know it's naive of me to think that teens don't drink. But I don't feel the blase way it was put out in this book is the best. So, it will be so far, the lowest of all the books I've rated for the Gateway possible nominees.

Gateway 10: Hate List by Jennifer Brown

This was a really good book. It really hit hard on the school shooting topic. It also focused in on the bullying issue. The main thing that I really liked about this book, is how it takes place from the point of view of the shooter's girlfriend. The person who actually started the "hate list". The story follows her, Valerie, through going back to school the year after it happens. We get flashbacks to each moment as it happened in May. But we also get to see how the other students are dealing with it. We see how her family, which was actually screwed up to begin with, and possibly part of the reason the hate list started, is completely finished by this. I think a good point is to think of how this shooter was thought of by his fellow students before all this happened. How people had no idea he was going to do it. And how the very day it happened, Valerie had been bullied by her biggest antagonizer. The ending is very touching. I also like that it looks at how the principal of the school tries to say that all the students have all changed and become like a family and that there is no more bullying or treating other students poorly. Which is wrong. I think schools often try to cover things, or at least I think I can totally see this happening. There are things that have happened in my district, that I wonder how they never made the news, when around the same time, you hear about the same type of issue happening in other districts on the news.

Anyway, I am going to hopefully have that as my next staff rec at the book store. I was also extremely interested to learn that the author is a good friend of a friend that I teach with. With some of the bullying issues going on at my school currently, it might be good to have her come in and speak to the kids. I wish I could read this book with my students, I think they could really learn from it. But I'm guessing a school shooting book would not be considered appropriate to read to 8th graders.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Gateway 9: Liar by Justine Larbalestier

All I can say about this book is WOW! It started out as what seemed to be a total realistic fiction type YA novel. Our main character Micah, is a liar, hence the title. She lied when she came to her new school, or just let a misconception spread without correcting it. And when that lie was found out and corrected, she changed it to something else. First she had a teacher call her a boy. Then when it was found out she was a girl, she told people she was born with parts for being a boy and a girl. Then she tells us that she was born covered with hair. The whole main part of the story is that a boy, Zach, has been found dead. It turns out that Micah was his girlfriend, on the side, anyway. He had a girlfriend at school that everyone knew about. We constantly learn about all the stuff she lies about, as she tells us lie after lie. And then, about halfway in, it turned into a fantasy book. Werewolves. And at the time you're wondering, is this another big lie, or is she actually telling the truth now? It's the truth, and the end of the book is very interesting. We never do find out for sure about what happens to her brother, at least I don't remember, so that is one question left open.

All in all it was a good read, kept me interested, etc. I think the kids will enjoy it.

Mini-Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella/Nook Review

This blog will serve as two reviews. Since I read Mini-Shopaholic while I was borrowing a Nook from the bookstore, I will review both at once.

Our main character Becky is back. This time she has a two year old daughter named Minnie, who seems to be a terror. She's gotten them kicked out of seeing Santa a couple times, and doesn't really help Becky with her shopaholic tendencies. In this book Becky decides she is going to throw her husband Luke a surprise birthday part for a reasonable price, and since her family and friends seem to assume she can't do it, she tries to do it on her own. She gets into the world of bartering, and of course that doesn't work out. And Luke thinks Minnie needs a super nanny to fix her. Which Becky of course doesn't think is necessary. They're living with Becky's parents due to some financial issues, as well as the houses they plan on buying keep falling through.

This book has the same funny issues with shopping that the others have, and some more stress as people getting older tend to deal with. I laughed out loud as normal with the shopaholic series, and so I will continue to wait and hope for more to be written as part of this series.

Nook review: Well, it was definitely fun to use. And I can see times it would be nice and convenient to have. But as I feel that having almost 300 books sitting in my house still NOT read, it is just not financially responsible to get one. I even considered asking for one for Christmas, but still, I would have to buy new books to put on it, so again, not financially responsible of me, unless I win Powerball! :-) But I definitely think it is a good piece of technology, and would recommend it to anyone who doesn't have a ton of books sitting around waiting to be read.

Gateway 8: North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

This was a really good book. The main character is Terra. Both she and her brothers are named after map related things because her father was a mapmaker. A humiliated mapmaker as he bought into a fake map supposedly from ancient China. Her brothers are both old enough that they are away at college or out on their own, and Terra is in high school. Her mom is overweight, and her dad is hateful and cruel to her and her mother. And Terra has one other strike against her, a huge port wine stain birthmark on her face. She's learned how to cover it with makeup as she's gotten older, in fact, she has a very hot boyfriend. Terra's outlet is art. She creates collages that represent people and things in her life. When a guest speaker at school gives Terra a suggestion of a new laser surgery that is supposed to fix this type of birthmark, Terra decides to try once more to get rid of this defect. On the way back home from the first treatment, it is a snowy, icy day, and they have an accident. The other car involved includes a Chinese boy named Jacob, and his adopted mom. Jacob looks like a goth, but Terra sees he has a cleft lip scar. This is why Jacob was probably given up in China as normally boys are not adopted.

Jacob and Terra connect, as do Jacob's mom and Terra's mom. After a bad holiday experience with her brothers, Terra's oldest brother invites her and her mom to visit him in China where he works. Jacob and his mom choose to go along, as they keep trying to visit the orphanage he came from, but keep hitting brick walls. The trip is a growing experience for all involved. And in a good way, they all come back changed. But Terra must decide if she wants to give up the "perfect" boyfriend that she doesn't "deserve" with her looks for someone like Jacob, who she has instantly connected with, as he just seems to "get" her.

Awesome, awesome story. I look forward to reading more by this author.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

This was another of the Penguin YA advanced readers books I got back in August. Wasn't sure if I'd like it. The cover is a little freaky for my taste. I know, I know, don't judge a book by its cover, but be honest, it's hard not to just a little. Anyway, this is another new take on werewolves and love triangles. Once I got into it, I really wanted to keep reading and finish it. Our main character is Calla. She is the alpha wolf of her pack, the nightshades. Since she was a baby she has been promised to marry Renier, the alpha male of another pack, the Wolfbanes. The plan is to combine the two packs into one in order to create a new young pack. In this case, the werewolves are guardians for the Keepers. They protect sacred sites from the Searchers.

The book begins with Calla saving a hiker from a grizzly bear. Something she shouldn't do. She even changes from a wolf to human form to save his life by giving him her blood. Now you might think this is how to create a new werewolf, but it is actually only part of it. They also have some incantation they must recite at the same time, so no, the hiker isn't changed. However, he soon shows up at the private school, in Vail, where Calla and Ren go to school. Turns out, his name is Shay, and he is the nephew of a big wig in the Keepers. And his uncle asks the young wolves to keep an eye out for him. Shay of course remembers what happened to him with Calla. And is intrigued by her. He also knows there are mysterious things going on in this school/town, and sets out to find out what is going on.

Calla is also intrigued by Shay. But one thing we can't tell for sure from this book is if she loves both Shay and Ren. It seems that she cares for both. And while she does tell Shay she loves him, she doesn't say it to Ren, but from her reactions to Ren's advances, it would seem she is interested in some way.

The end is quite a cliffhanger. It seems, as always, that the Keepers aren't quite the good guys that Calla was brought up to believe. And not only does it leave off at a cliff hanger, leading me to believe there is a sequel, when I typed the name in on Goodreads.com, there were sequels already listed, more than one. The fact that there are already this many planned sequels, makes me feel like I should give up my writing aspirations. I have story ideas in my head, but not enough to even finish or flesh out the story for one book, let alone a series. I guess I figure there are so many good authors out there, why should I bother throwing my crap out to be judged and rejected? So, currently debating whether to go ahead and do NaNoWriMo and write my stories just for me, like Stephenie Meyer said she does, instead of thinking what will be an actual published book. Or, to not waste my time. Thinking I'll have so much going on this November with my new online teaching job, that it might be a good idea not to worry about it this year.

Anyway, the book was good, and I'm eagerly awaiting the sequel, which who knows how long till that comes out, because this is an advance readers copy of a book that doesn't come out till October.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gateway 7: Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

I think kids will enjoy this. And I do think it was an interesting look at the war from a young soldier's point of view. There are some obvious liberal, anti-war statements in the book. Which to me kind of make it so the book is not objective, giving kids a chance to make their own opinions. As I have not read any other books by this author, I wonder if her other books lean the same way. While I have wanted to read her other books, Sold, and Cut for sure, now I'm a bit turned off from just the little digs that were in this one. I will definitely check with friends I have who were over in the war to see if what was said is true.

Our main character is Matt. When we meet him he has just woken up in a military hospital in the Green Zone. The place where Saddam Hussein's palace was that has been taken over by the US military. Matt can't remember exactly what happened to lead up the time when he was injured by the explosion of an RPG. So we go with him as he heals, as he must tell the higher ups what happened, or as they tell him what happened. We get to be with him as he goes back to be with his unit. And what happens soon after he gets back is traumatic as well. I think a look into what life might be like inside this situation would be a good thing for teens to read.

The Icing on the Cake by Alison Kent

Yet another book I got through Shelf Awareness for free. This is supposedly a romance based on a real story through Match.com. As someone who has tried out Match.com, and knows it for what it is, something that still only works for the attractive people, just as in real life. I had to choke through those parts to get through. This is really just a very basic, simple, romance novel. The main characters are Michelle Snow and Todd Bracken. The other part I had an issue with was that after the first date they already were sad and depressed when the other was going out of town on a trip planned way before they even thought of each other. Insert gagging hand motion here.

Anyway, the main thing I did enjoy, was that Michelle's dream was to open a boutique cupcakery. I do love cupcakes. And at the beginning of each chapter it named one of the ideas, and told what it was made of. Here are some of the best sounding ones that make me want to rush out and buy a cupcake.

Ba-nilla: banana bottom with vanilla buttercream top

The "G" Man: gingerbread bottom with a lemon cream cheese buttercream top

Jackie-Oh!: chocolate bottom with almond buttercream top

Happy!: vanilla bottom with chocolate fudge top

Rediculous: red velvet bottom with vanilla cream cheese buttercream top

Whoopie Pie: chocolate bottom with whoopie cream filling & chocolate ganache top

Cookie MOMster: chocolate bottom with almond Oreo buttercream top

Campfire: graham cracker bottom with milk chocolate ganache & marshmallow top

Autumn Luv: spice bottom with almond buttercream top

Apple of My Pie: apple spice bottom with vanilla caramel buttercream top

Lemon Frost: lemon bottom with lemon buttercream top

Pumpkin Pie: pumpkin spice bottom with vanilla cream cheese buttercream top

Hungry yet? I'm wondering if this is a real bakery since this is supposed to be a reality based romance. It takes place in the DC area, which after visiting a couple years ago, I do think it is a neat area.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The 4400: Wet Work by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore

This book is the one I kept in my car for those times when I was somewhere that I needed to read something and didn't remember to bring a book. So I started it quite a while ago.

The 4400 was a show I liked on tv that was cancelled after only a few years. It started out with a great premise, but as many of those types of shows tend to do, it got bogged down into what I call the "mythology" of the show.

This was a good representation of what an episode of the show could have been about. An internation assassin known as "the Wraith" was one of the people taken, she disappeared in 1992. One of our main characters, Tom Baldwin, was actually part of finding her on one of his first cases. When she comes back with the rest of the 4400, she immediately disappears. She had actually planned on that last kill to end her career anyway and retreat into oblivion with her girlfriend. When she comes back, it seems someone from the future, which is where the 4400 have been sent back from, has chosen her to be an assassin for them, to kill other 4400 members who might be messing up the plans. She of course has her own kill list, the people who assigned her all the jobs in the past, who she knew would want her back so that she couldn't incriminate them in these illegal political assassins assigned by the CIA.

As I read the end of the book about the authors, it was very interesting to note that they are both Kansas City residents, or were at the time of the book. I found that cool!

Gateway 6: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

I'd seen this book at the store. No idea what it was about, but the cover is very interesting. Even with such an interesting cover, and really a title that doesn't give much clear idea to what it is about, I can't believe I never picked it up to read what it would be about. Because I really, really, REALLY enjoyed this book. In a way, it reminds me of how much I enjoyed Twilight. I had to know what was going to happen so bad, that I almost skimmed through parts of it, not stopping to read all the details because what happened was more important than savoring. I have a feeling I'll eventually purchase this title, and it will be one I read again and again. Although there is a sequel I'll need to read soon as well.

Shiver is the story of Grace and Sam. Grace was attacked and bitten by a pack of wolves when she was a small child. She can remember one of them in particular, it had these stunning, unforgettable yellow eyes. It was almost as if he saved her, because once she saw him, the other wolves soon disappeared leaving her alone.

Sam is a werewolf, with yellow eyes. He has always felt a connection to Grace. Even when in his wolf state, when he can't quite remember who she is, he feels the pull to go to her house and watch her. And in the summers, when he is human, he hopes to see her.

You see, these wolves become wolves when it gets cold. And as the years pass, the time that they get to be human gets shorter, and shorter, until eventually they never change back and stay wolves forever.

When Sam and Grace finally meet as humans, it is love, as they'd always felt. But Sam is afraid this is his last year, in fact he didn't become human until late fall when he actually felt he had to save Grace.

A boy Grace goes to school with is killed by wolves, then his body disappears. This boy's sister, Isabel, has seen him, and knows he is not dead, and he tells Isabel that Grace knows a cure. Why else could she have been bitten, but not have changed?

The end is very dramatic, and sad, and makes me so happy that there is a sequel, so I can see what happens next. I will probably make this a staff rec as well at the bookstore.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Gateway 5 - Lost by Jacqueline Davies

I was so sure I'd love this. I have really enjoyed all the historical fiction I've been reading from going through this award nominee selection process the past 2 years. And while this was mostly interesting, I'm not sure it will really pull in the high school age. I think it might actually be more a book my middle school kids would enjoy. Now, the main character is Essie, and I think she's like 16? Not completely sure. Anyway, she is a Jewish girl who works in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. We begin the book with a flashback to her younger sister being born, and their mother not wanting to have anything to do with her, due to being so upset over the loss of their father. This is set shortly before the big fire that occurred in this building. There is something weird going on with the younger sister. You can kind of figure it out pretty quick, I think. There is a new girl who is very mysterious, and Essie follows her to her apartment, and then soon they become friends. Turns out her friend has a past, and Essie slowly pieces it together. There is a romance going on between Essie and a boy who lives nearby, Jimmy.

Anyway, we get a lot of the story told with what might be considered stereotypical "Jewish" sounding speaking. So we only get a little of the culture that way. Essie has a younger brother who is kind of a delinquent as well, and so the big turning point of the story comes when he gets arrested, and Essie must figure out how to get him out of jail. Jimmy, who is a law student, goes to the police station to help, and along with the errand Essie runs to her new friend Harriet to ask for the money she needs.

Shortly after this, she goes back to work at the factory one more time, the day of the big fire. Knowing this was going to happen, I was kind of looking for it throughout the whole book and it kind of made me maybe speed through the book to get to that. Not because I'm morbid, but because that is a big historical moment, and I wanted to see what the author did to bring it in, and how the main character would fare and what it would mean afterwards. The cover of the book also does nothing for it in my opinion. I understand what it means, because Essie makes hats, the type that were fashionable back then, but still kind of a boring cover.

Good book, but not sure it is appropriate for Gateway level readers. So I won't be rating it one of the highest I read for the year.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Pride of the Peacock by Victoria Holt

This isn't a new book. In fact, this is a book I've owned for a long time, and read over, and over, and over. I got it one time when my Aunt Nancy was watching me for the day, and we went over to her in-laws for some reason or another. Anyone who knew me as a kid, knows that I was always looking for something to read. I picked up this book off a table or bookshelf or something while my aunt was doing whatever it was we were there for. And I was sucked in immediately. When we went to leave, I think it was my aunt's grandmother in law told me I was welcome to take the book with me and keep it. So I did.

Not sure if this is when my fascination with peacocks began, but peacocks are a big part of the story. And opals. Opal is my birthstone, so of course I've liked it for a long time. But this book introduced me to black opals, and made me search to find them. The main character is Jessica Clavering, or Opal Jessica Clavering which is her full name, although she is never called by Opal. She lives with her family in England in the Dower House of her family's estate that her father lost long ago when gambling. No one will really talk much about the time before. One day Jessica notices what looks like an unmarked grave and finds that it has her name on it. But still, no one will tell her anything about this. Soon the new owner of the former family estate, Ben Henniker is back. And while Jessica is out at her place she likes to sit, his wheelchair comes racing down hill out of control. When Jessica goes to save him, they soon become friends. And she begins sneaking over to visit him. This is where she learns about opals. Ben made his fortune hunting opals in Australia. This may be where I also began my fascination with Australia as well.

I won't go on to spoil much more, just know that Jessica ends up going to Australia and getting to work with opals, and falling in love, all with a mysterious, magnificent opal that is thought to be cursed, called the Green Flash at Sunset, in the background of all the drama. I don't know if you can even find this book anymore. I've looked in the catalog at my bookstore, thinking that one day I'll need a new copy of this when I wear this one out, but haven't been able to find it. And I do love the cover of it that I have, so I wouldn't want one of the others I saw that is really dorky looking in my opinion. While this is probably considered a romance novel, it isn't a trashy one. There is no sex in it. It is quite a bit of a mystery at the end as well. But it is romance, and again, one reason I love it is because of how I also have the insecurities dealing with how no one could possibly like/love me just like Jessica does when we get into the last half of the book where she is with Joss in Australia.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Gateway 4: Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas

I had seen this book at the store and thought it looked interesting. And it was good. I can see that teens would enjoy it, even if I was left somewhat just okay with it. This is the story of Anke and her family. Her father is abusive to her older brother and sister, but doesn't really do much to her, in fact, as the title says, it's like he doesn't even see her. And while she knows what he does to her siblings, sees the bruises, hears him in her sister's room at night, she sometimes feels this means he loves them and not her. She decides to try out and makes the school volleyball team, she's so tall, she's a shoe-in. Her father tells her competition is not good, but doesn't ever actually forbid her, and as always, doesn't turn on her and hurt her in any way for it. No one in the family says anything to try to end this. Until the day that her father does turn on her.

The book is written in poems, reminiscent of the Ellen Hopkins stories, Crank, Glass, etc. So I can see it being a very popular book with kids.

Gateway Nominee 3: Fat Cat by Robin Brande

Oh my gosh, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVED this book! Our main character is Fat Cat, or Catherine Locke. Cat is very smart, she is in THE science class, the one that can get you to the National Science competition, as well as scholarships to college. The way this class starts out, is that you pick, without looking, a picture that the teacher, Mr. Fizer, has cut out of a National Geographic at some point in the past. And based on that picture, you must come up with an individual research project to do for the year, that you will then enter in the school science fair at the end of the year. Cat has worked with insects at a lab all summer, and is really hoping to get some kind of picture that can somehow tie in with this so she can build on her summer work. But no, she gets a picture of Homo erectus, early hominins from 1.8 million years ago. She sees the woman in the picture, lean, muscular, tan, and wants to be her. Cat is overweight, and has been for quite awhile. So this leads to her idea of living like these hominins and seeing what it does for her life and health. Such an awesome project this turns out to be! Of course she has to make some exceptions, she can't use technology, they didn't have it, but she will have to use the computer for homework sometimes, and can only ride or drive a car at night, or for safety issues such as distance. So, she walks to school and work. Her diet gets as close as it can, these prehistoric humans ate rotten meat, yuck. She soon learns that not only in this case, but she must make some other exception in order to not get sick. n

Now, Cat has an archenemy, Matt. They used to be best friends, until something happened at a science fair when they were 13. We don't know for sure what happened till later in the book, but it is easy to guess. As Cat does her project, she loses weight, and starts looking and feeling great. And the boys do notice. Even Matt.

As I've said in many other blogs, I really do get into books where I feel a personal bond or connection with the main character. And I do, so much of how she feels is how I've felt in the past, or sadly, how I feel these days. Such a great, great book. Loved it!!