Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

enchantedSunday Woodcutter, like her six sisters, was named for a day of the week.  I assume it was the day of the week on which they were born, though I cannot honest recall at the moment.  I do remember, though, that her sisters all seemed to be the embodiment of the old nursery rhyme “Monday’s Child,” which predicts children’s characteristics based on their days of birth:

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

The number seven always seems to hold some magical and mystical powers in fantasy stories, and this story is no exception.  Being the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter has set Sunday up to be especially magical.  She loves writing, but is hesitant to do so because what she writes often comes true.  After meeting a talking frog, and telling him about her stories, Sunday finds that she finally has a friend to confide in.  He disappears, of course, when Sunday bestows a kiss on the his little froggy head — turning back into Prince Rumbold, whom her family despises.  Prince Rumbold is certain he can make Sunday fall in love with him, though, if only he can get a chance to talk to her and explain…

Happy Reading!

Sidekicks by Jack D. Ferraiolo

SidekicksThanks to my recent stint at Batgirl at the YSS Spring Conference, I finally remembered that I need to post a review of this book!  Let me just start off by saying that I liked this book, but I was a bit put off in the beginning.  I think it’s because the cover had me expecting something that would be more accessible to tweens and younger teens but the story left me feeling uncomfortable recommending this book to someone who specifically asks for a “clean read” for their child.  Perhaps I found the beginning of the book so off-putting just because I am female and just don’t *get* it as much as if I had grown up as a guy.  But, as it stands, I thought that the first several chapters were a bit much.  I mean, does it really take several chapters to get across the point that Bright Boy was embarrassed about an erection showing through his spandex costume? I think not…

For the most part, though, I really enjoyed this book.  I especially appreciated the fact that good and evil were not as typically “black and white” as in many super hero stories.  Sometimes, heroes do very bad things; sometimes, villains are actually misguided altruists.  I loved that Phantom Justice was a campy parody of Batman, whom I think my husband takes entirely too seriously, and Dr. Chaotic reminded me quite a bit of Dr. Horrible.  If you’re looking for a funny story with action and adventure, mystery and suspense, and a hint of romance, you should give this one a try.

Happy Reading!

Aside

yaqui delgadoIt’s so funny how things work out sometimes.  After finishing this audiobook two days ago, I saw [yesterday] that the author was featured in a CNN article about 10 visionary women!  I am taking this as a sign that I need to post my review for this book now.  :-)

Bullying has been a high profile topic for quite some time now, and many authors have done a great job shining the spotlight on this problem – Dear Bully edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones, Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser, Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia, Scrawl by Mark Shulman, and Shine by Lauren Myracle are just a handful of titles I have reviewed on this blog…  The problem isn’t so much that people don’t know bullying exists.  It’s that bullying is such a complex issue and there are no easy answers as to how people can prevent bullying or how adults can get teens to speak out and speak up to stop bullying in its tracks.  It’s easy to look back as adults and to see where we could or should have done things differently, but it’s not quite so easy to put that knowledge to good use if the teens we live or work with don’t want to listen to our advice.  That’s where these books can come in handy.  These books provide a way for teens to vicariously experience someone else’s bullying and to not only empathize for all of the characters involved but to see what they did right or wrong as a result of their situation.

I think what I liked best about Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass was just how raw and honest the story felt.  Unfortunately, because my middle and high school experience included being bullied, it was quite clear to me that Meg Medina had also experienced bullying firsthand.  Piddy’s depression and fear were just too real to be completely fictional.  Luckily, my experiences were not nearly as harrowing as Piddy’s, but I can definitely see a lot of what I felt [and more] in how Piddy reacted.  No matter where people fall on the spectrum of bullying — from bully, to victim, to bystander – though, I think they can find some of their life experience in this story.  This book would be a great conversation starter for anyone who would like to delve into the topic of bullying with their child, class, or book club.

Happy Reading!

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares [ARC]

The Here And NowI am pretty sure the only Ann Brashares books I had read before this ARC were from the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series.  It looks like I never reviewed them on this blog, though, so I can’t simply link to what I thought of them.  Instead, I will quickly summarize by saying that they are basic contemporary “chick lit” books.  They primarily dealt with friendship, dating, and body image — and they were both realistic and well written enough that I’m not surprised to see that they’re still popular.  While this book was also well written and has a romantic element to it, it was VERY different in that it has a science fiction angle.

Prenna James is an immigrant, but she didn’t come from another country — she came from another time.  She, along with the rest of the people in her tight-knit community, traveled back in time from a future in which global warming had destroyed the world.  Warmer temperatures melted the polar ice caps, caused massive floods, and also allowed mosquitoes to thrive.  Even though cancer had been cured, human existence was threatened by a blood-borne plague reminiscent of AIDS.  Prenna’s time-traveling community has many rules, but the most important rules are to blend in, to avoid making any changes to “the past,” and to avoid intimacy with outsiders.  Despite worries about getting in trouble, Prenna has a hard time following the rules.  She just can’t understand how they can just sit by and watch people destroy the world instead of trying to make a difference.  Plus, of course, there’s the fact that she’s falling for an outsider named Ethan…

Happy Reading!

This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl by Esther Earl with Lori and Wayne Earl

this star won't go outEsther Grace Earl was an exceptional teenager.  She was a kind, thoughtful, and generous Nerdfighter who managed to bring out the best in herself and the people around her while simultaneously battling thyroid cancer.  Esther bravely endured lengthy and painful treatments with the hope that she could live long enough to “make a difference, to help someone.”  Well, she definitely succeeded.  Not only did she inspire people while she was alive, but her legacy continues via a charity called This Star Won’t Go Out.

This book is a collection of Esther’s blog posts, letters to her family, CaringBridge entries from her family, and reflections from people who knew her, interspersed with photos.  There is an introduction by John Green, which explains how he met Esther and the role she played in inspiring him while he wrote The Fault in Our Stars.  I found it difficult to read this story because I found myself getting depressed and angry about the unfairness of it all.  How can there be healthy “bad people” in the world while innocent children and teens die from cancer?!?  As I finished the book last night, and I came to the section where Esther’s parents recalled her final words and moments, I couldn’t help but sob.  Thankfully, there was a small samples of stories Esther had written to lighten the mood at the end of the book.

Happy Reading!

Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach [ARC]

fat boy vs the cheerleadersIn honor of Teen Tech Week, I decided to review a book that I read as a digital ARC.  (If there are any teachers/librarians out there who would like to get digital ARCs, by the way, I highly recommend checking out Edelweiss and NetGalley.) Though I was reluctant to use an e-reader, I really have come around.  Though I still prefer “real” books, I am learning to appreciate my e-reader — especially when it means that I will have a better chance of receiving, and sometimes even instant access to, a review copy!

I don’t recall where I first saw the cover of this book, but I was intrigued by both the title and the cool cover.  I wanted to find out more about it and whether it might be a good fit for my library’s YA collection, but I couldn’t find any professional reviews.  So, I decided to get a digital review copy from Edelweiss and read it myself.   I am SO glad I did!  I loved the main character, Gabe/Chunk, and thought the unique way the story was told — in the form of a written statement/police interview — worked surprisingly well.

Gabe’s “friends” call him Chunk [a reference to a character from an 80s cult classic, The Goonies], and he has long accepted that moniker.  After all, he is fat.  Huge.  Beyond hope.  After his mom left, he and his dad both began to feed their feelings.  One of Gabe/Chunk’s biggest problems is his addiction to soda — but the money from the soda machine in the school cafeteria helps to fund the school pep band, so he is OK with wasting his money and drinking all the extra calories… until the day he finds out that they’ve been bamboozled.  Without public knowledge, the school board decided to take the money from the soda machine and give it to the cheerleaders for a new dance squad!  Gabe/Chunk decides that he is not only going to enlist the help of his friends to win back the money for the band, but he is going to let his grandfather [a former champion body builder] help him win back his body.  Though I admit that the description sounds like it could get a little preachy, I am pleased to report that this story was often hilarious and that Gabe/Chunk had an authentic teen voice.  I’m definitely hoping for more from this author.

Happy Reading!

The Paladin Prophecy by Mark Frost

Paladin ProphecyI thought this book was kind of like a Davinci Code for tween and teen readers.  There is a lot of mystery, tons of action, and a “bigger picture” that readers catch glimpses of throughout the story.  (This is the first in a series.)  Although I feel this book probably could have been edited down to be quite a bit shorter, I think the fast-paced action is likely enough to keep even reluctant readers turning pages.  Plus, the movie rights have been bought by Reliance Entertainment and Kintop Pictures, so I have a feeling this book will be in high demand as soon as the trailer starts making the rounds.

Will West’s parents constantly remind him to be as average as possible.  They won’t tell him why, but they think it is very important for him to fly under the radar.  So, he stays in the middle of the pack in cross country, he gets average grades, and he doesn’t do much else.  All his careful calculating is wasted, though, when he slips up and scores off-the-charts high on a national standardized test.  As a result, he gets invited down to the principal’s office for a meeting with a woman named Dr. Rollins, who extends an offer for a full scholarship to a secret, elite prep school… and men in black also start following him.  When his mom starts acting like a robot/zombie and his dad sends strange text messages, Will decides he needs to run for it.  With the help of a local taxi driver, who assumes Will is on the run from the police, he makes a mad dash for the airport — where he boards a plane for the secret prep school with the hope that he will soon begin to make sense of what is happening to him.

Happy Reading!