First of all, I just have to say that I read this book a few years ago and only now realized that I never reviewed it… Shame on me! Second, I feel compelled to tell you all how much I love the complete/crazy-long title of this book — Princess Ben: Being a Wholly Truthful Account of Her Various Discoveries and Misadventures, Recounted to the Best of Her Recollection, in Four Parts — which is a lot! It has such a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Seriously, though, I think it helps to set the tone for the book. Because this is not your typical princess story!
It is true that Princess Ben (short for Benevolence) has been hidden away in a tower by her overbearing aunt, Queen Sophia, since her parents and her uncle (the king) were assassinated. Queen Sophia has plans to marry Ben off to the first mildly suitable man to present himself, but Ben is not the kind of princess who would be content to wait for a prince to come to her rescue. Thanks to her inquisitive/mischievous nature, she manages to find an enchanted room in the tower and begins to teach herself some magic with the books therein. Not only does this magic give her something to do with all of her “free” time, but it also buys her some freedom and increases the odds that she will be able to save both herself and the kingdom from Queen Sophia.
P.S. If you like this story, I also recommend the sequel — Wisdom’s Kiss: A Thrilling and Romantic Adventure Incorporating Magic, Villainy, and a Cat.
Period 8 is a class like no other. Regardless of how they get along outside of class, everyone is equal in Period 8. The teacher, Mr. Logsdon [a.k.a. Logs], has a lot to do with that. His only rules are that everyone has to be honest and that nothing leaves the room. Students are encouraged to share or discuss anything they wish, but they are also allowed to just listen to the others if they don’t wish to talk. When one of the Period 8 students — Mary “Virgin Mary” Wells — goes missing, everyone is worried. She never misses school, and her dad is known for being insanely strict, so the fact that she went missing AND that her dad waited three days to report her missing has people feeling very unsettled. Paulie Baum [a.k.a "Paulie Bomb"] is acting strangely too. And even though Paulie is known for ALWAYS telling the truth, Logs can tell he is holding something back. Could Paulie know something about Mary’s disappearance? And, if he does, why wouldn’t he say?
If you’re looking for a story that relates to teens’ lives without talking down to them and seamlessly combines everyday situations with a mystery/thriller scenario — while appealing to guys and girls alike, no less! — look no further. This book was everything fans of Chris Crutcher have come to expect with a little extra thrown in — fast paced, lots of action, and so many twists and turns that I honestly couldn’t guess them all before the story’s conclusion.
Victor Frankenstein and his twin brother, Konrad, have shared in many adventures with their cousin, Elizabeth, and their friend, Henry. On one such adventure, they discovered the the Dark Library — filled with ancient books about dark magic and alchemy. When their father found out, he forbade them from entering the library again. After Konrad fell ill with an unidentified malady that the doctors’ treatments and medicines could not cure, nevertheless, Victor decided to seek an ancient remedy in the books of the Dark Library. Full of action, adventure, and mystery, this back-story to Shelley’s Frankenstein is a gothic thriller that will probably even appeal to reluctant readers.
15-year-old Evie Spooner is a bit awkward and wishes she could grow up a little bit a lot faster. She wishes she could be more like her mom, Beverly, whom she sees as a beautiful (albeit over-protective) mother and housewife who is capable of making practically anything look elegant. Being a housewife is more of a recent thing for Beverly, though. During WWII, Beverly had to work in a local department store to help support her family, but her husband/Evie’s step-father is back from the war and is able to take care of his family again. Joe’s appliance stores are doing really well, and he is happy to be back home in Queens, but the sudden appearance of a war buddy [Peter Coleridge] gets Joe acting strangely. Apropos of nothing, he decides to take Evie and Beverly to Palm Beach. The town is mostly shut down because they’re there during the wrong season, but they manage to find a room at Le Mirage — where they end up meeting a glamorous couple, Mr. and Mrs. Grayson [also from New York City]. Secrets slowly unfold, as Evie sees and hears things she shouldn’t… But, by the time Evie figures out what’s going on, she is already caught in the middle of a web of lies. This is a great mystery, especially for people who enjoy historical fiction.
Guy Langman wasn’t really good at anything — quite the opposite of his dad who seemed to be amazing at everything without even trying. Guy was rather thrown when his dad died, even though his dad was technically old enough to be his grandfather, and became suddenly intrigued by all things having to do with death. So, it wasn’t exactly a stretch for him to accept an invitation from his best friend, Anoop, to join Mr. Zant’s Forensics Club. (Especially since it provided a chance to impress some cute girls!) For once in his life, Guy really cared about something and was actually good at it. Which worked out rather nicely as some mysteries popped up in his own life…
Being the new kid at school can be really tough. But being the new, fat, deaf kid in a school without an interpreter or a captioning system? I can’t even imagine! Luckily, Will Halpin has an uncanny ability to lipread and doesn’t much care what the “cool kids” think. He has surmised, though, that everyone else is practically willing to kill each other for an invite to the upcoming birthday party of an über-popular jock named Pat. This story isn’t just about the difficulties Will faced with main-streaming and making friends, though. The real story is about how Will and Devon Smiley forged their new friendship while trying to figure out how Pat ended up dead during a field trip to the Happy Memory Coal Mine.
I enjoyed this story for a number of reasons, but first and foremost is the fact that there a good mix of humor and mystery. It was definitely more Castle than CSI, if you know what I mean. The fact that Josh Berk even managed to include a lot of information about deaf culture in a way that was neither clunky nor didactic was also awesome. The original book cover is honestly the only thing I didn’t like about this book. Luckily, it has been re-released with this new cover, which is more likely to appeal to teens and also hints at the mystery within.
Maggie is suffering from memory loss, but she isn’t really sure whether she wants to get back those missing memories. Why? Because those memories would fill in the details of exactly what happened immediately before and after her boyfriend, Joey, accidentally fell to his death. The story her friends gave her [and the police] is that Joey died as the result of a cliff dive gone wrong… but Maggie is afraid there might be more to it than a mere slip. Could it have been something *she* did wrong? After all, Joey had jumped from that cliff countless times, and he was supposed to be helping her with her first jump. Her best friends — Adam, Shannon, and Tanna — are doing the best they can to support her, but they’re having a hard time even managing with their own grief in this tragic time. A perfect blend of mystery and contemporary realistic fiction, especially if you’re in need of a good cry.
Set in 1906 in the Adirondack Mountains, and based on the actual murder of a woman named Grace Brown, this book will appeal to fans of both historical fiction and murder mysteries. Chapters alternate between the past and the present, as narrated by sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey. In the chapters about the past, we learn about Mattie’s life on her family’s farm and her hope to attend Barnard College in New York City to become a writer. In the chapters about her present, we learn about Mattie’s work at The Glenmore Hotel on Big Moose Lake and how it brought her into contact with Grace Brown shortly before she was murdered.
I think what I liked best about this story is that it was about so much more than Grace Brown’s murder. It was also a coming-of-age story about a young woman (Mattie) who was determined to blaze her own path and to fight for her dreams despite the wishes of her father and the lack of women’s rights at the time. With how seamlessly Jennifer Donnelly wove together the true story of Grace Brown and the fictional story of Mattie Gokey, it’s no wonder this book won the 2003 Carnegie Medal in Literature [under the UK title A Gathering Light].
Happy Teen Read Week!
If you’ve read Graceling, and/or it’s prequel Fire, you should probably do yourself a favor and read this sequel! In this story, we learn about Queen Bitterblue’s struggle to return the kingdom of Monsea to normalcy after the death of her father, King Leck. Though Leck has been dead for quite some time, his reign of terror seems to live on. And while Bitterblue is willing to do whatever it takes to help her kingdom recover from the time of her father’s villainous rule, her every move seems to be impeded by the well-meaning advisers she inherited. I very much enjoy fantasy, and especially love stories with strong female characters, so I was happy to see that Katsa [the main character in Graceling] acted as a mentor to Bitterblue.
The reason I have included this book in my Banned Books Week posts is because I have a couple of friends who thought this sequel was a bit *too* disturbing. They thought the flashbacks to King Leck’s time were too horrible, but I thought that the story sort of *had* to be disturbing to truly work. While I can certainly appreciate that some people wouldn’t want to read the descriptions of King Leck’s sick experiments and the tortures he perpetrated, I found that it helped to explain the things I already knew about King Leck and to put the rest of his story into perspective. Maybe I’ve just read too many “dark” books and have desensitized myself, but I honestly don’t believe this violence was gratuitous and, therefore, have to applaud Kristin Cashore for having the guts to give readers the whole story of King Leck and the horrible legacy he left behind.
Happy Banned Books Week!