Category Archives: book review

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

It’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 … Continue 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!

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

peculiar-childrenI made it a point to listen to this audiobook last June because it had been added to a local summer reading list.  Since I had already been thinking about reading it, I didn’t even feel like I was doing homework as I sometimes do when I am trying to familiarize myself with summer reading titles.  How lovely!  While I am willing to admit that it wasn’t quite what I expected, though I can’t quite put into words what exactly that means, I was far from disappointed.

Jacob grew up listening to his grandfather’s outrageous stories about strange children with amazing powers — like invisibility, super strength, and levitation — as they looked through pictures from the home in which his grandfather had been raised.  He believed his grandfather when he was very young but, as he got older, started to think that the pictures “proving” their peculiarities looked so fake.  After all, what sane person would believe that there was a girl with a mouth on the back of her head and another who could float like a helium balloon?  Still, it was kind of fun to imagine.  That is, until the day his grandfather called him absolutely terrified about being unable to find his guns when the monsters were coming to get him.  When Jacob found his grandfather’s body in the woods, and saw something he couldn’t explain, he had to decide whether he would choose to believe in the bizarre stories his grandfather had told him or if his grandfather had simply been suffering from delusions or dementia.  And only one thing would set his mind at ease — a trip to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

Fans of this book should be happy to learn that movie rights have been sold to 20th Century Fox.  According to Ransom Riggs’ blog, Tim Burton is set to direct and the screenplay with be adapted by Jane Goldman [who also wrote the screenplays for X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass, and The Woman in Black].  IMDB has a projected release date of July 31, 2015 but no further information. I, for one, am pretty excited to see how this develops.

Happy Reading!

Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick

Gorgeous18-year-old Becky Randle, a recent high school graduate, works for a local grocery chain and lives in the trailer she inherited when her mom died (from complications of diabetes/being morbidly obese).  One day, Becky thinks she hears her mom’s ringtone and, while searching for the phone, unearths a phone number on a scrap of paper inside an otherwise empty jewelery box.  She wonders if the phone number has anything to do with the cryptic thing her mother said on the day she died — “[S]omething is going to happen to you. And it’s going to be magical.”  So Becky decides to take a chance and calls the number.  It’s almost too good to be true when the person on the other end of the line offers her $1000 and a plane ticket to New York City, but she has nothing to lose and decides to check it out.

Upon her arrival in NYC, she is brought to see fashion designer Tom Kelly, who offers to make her three dresses and to transform her into the most beautiful woman in the world.  Becky doesn’t believe him at first, but her best friend Rocher uses some extremely colorful language to convince her to go for it.  (Rocher’s expletive-laden exclamations were often hilarious, and one was so good that I actually pulled over and recorded it with my cell phone so I could later play it back for my husband.  AFTER the kids had gone to bed, of course!)  Anyhow… Tom comes through and works some sort of crazy magic and Becky really is transformed!  She becomes Rebecca — who is tall, thin, and gorgeous, with perfect skin and hair.  She can eat anything she wants without gaining an ounce, and this gives her loads more confidence than Becky ever had.  The only problem is that Rebecca needs to fall in love and get married within a year or everything will go back to the way it was before.

Happy Reading!

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fford

The Last DragonslayerI was initially going to read this by myself, but I had to keep stopping to read things out loud to my son because he kept asking, “What’s so funny?”  After a few chapters he asked me, “Can you just start over and read that book out loud to me?  It sounds really good!”  Well, I couldn’t say no to that!  And, I must say, even though this book is cataloged as YA, it really didn’t have anything in it that made me uncomfortable reading it out loud to an 8-year-old.

15-year-old Jennifer Strange works as the manager for Kazam Mystical Arts Management.  Since wizidrical power has been dwindling for quite some time, wizards are reduced to using their power for more mundane purposes, like delivering pizzas and rewiring houses.  Jennifer spends her time and energy trying to find enough work for the Kazam employees, but demand seems to be drying up just as quick as magic.  Until, suddenly there is a magical surge and people start whispering about the possibility that Big Magic is involved.  When “precogs” start picking up on the impending demise of the last dragon, Maltcassian, everyone in the UnUnited Kingdoms starts going mad about claiming a portion of the untouched Dragonlands — and Jennifer learns that SHE will become the Last Dragonslayer.  Reluctant to believe that she will have to kill Maltcassian, since he hasn’t yet done anything to break the Dragonpact, Jennifer does her best to wield her power as Last Dragonslayer with integrity.  This book has a winning combination of a strong female character with a good moral compass and plenty of wry humor.  I can see this book being a hit for fans of Harry Potter who want a lighter fantasy read.

Happy Reading!