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.