Loki’s Wolves by K.L. Armstrong & M.A. Marr

loki's wolvesArmstrong and Marr have done for Norse mythology what Rick Riordan has done for Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology.  So, Riordan fans who need something to read while they anxiously await the final Heroes of Olympus book [The Blood of Olympus, coming October 7th] should definitely check out Loki’s Wolves.  Much like the Percy Jackson books, all the action and humor easily disguise the fact that you’re learning a metric ton of information about mythology.  My only complaint is that there’s not a glossary and/or pronunciation guide.  I mean, lots of kids have heard of Thor and Loki… but that might be as far as their previous knowledge of Norse mythology extends. And, even as an adult with a pretty decent grasp of language, I had a hard time figuring out how to say some of the more exotic names.

Matt Thorsen lives in a small town called Blackwell, South Dakota.  He is extremely familiar with the legends of Norse mythology because his family are *literally* the descendants of Thor.  Matt has never been as successful as his brothers in school, but he is becoming a pretty awesome boxer — which should come in handy now that he is responsible for saving the world.  Seriously!  Ragnarok (basically, the apocalypse) is approaching and Matt is going to have to find a way to work with the descendants of other Norse gods — some of whom haven’t traditionally gotten along with Thor, like Loki — if he wants to find a way to save himself, and the rest of the world, from sure death.

Happy Reading!

We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt

We Are the GoldensNell and Layla were extremely close when they were little.  So close, in fact, that Nell got confused and started calling her sister and herself by the collective name Nellaya.  Now that they’re both in high school, things have started to shift.  Though they attend the same school and play on the same soccer team, Layla has become more closed off and secretive.  Nell is doing her best to be her own person instead of living in her sister’s shadow, but she misses the closeness they once had.  Though Layla used to tell her everything, she feels like Layla isn’t telling her *anything* anymore.  Nell wonders what could be causing this change in her sister and fears it has something to do with the rumors that Layla is dating the cute, young art teacher whose supposed conquests of students are frequent fodder for gossip.  She wants to know the truth, but she is also afraid of what she might learn.  After all, what will/should Nell do if she finds out the rumors are true?

Though I don’t think this book was written as well as The Things a Brother Knows or Harmless, I thought Reinhardt did a good job writing about the struggle between loyalty and honesty.

Happy Reading!

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

Ketchup CloudsAfter her boyfriend’s death, Zoe is so overcome with guilt that she finds it hard to function.  People assume that her reclusive behavior is owed to the fact that she’s grieving for Max, and she finds that their sympathy actually makes her feel even more guilty.  In an attempt to unburden herself, Zoe decides to confess to Stuart Harris — a Death Row inmate in Texas who was listed on a website of prisoners seeking pen-pals.  She thought writing to Stuart would be a good idea for a few reasons — 1. he killed his wife and would likely understand what she’s going through, 2. he is in the United States while she is in England, and 3. she could use a false name and address to avoid being turned in to the police.  (Yeah.  Her name’s not really Zoe.)  Through her letters to Stuart, which she writes while hiding out in the shed in her backyard, readers learn about the events that led up to Max’s death and why she feels responsible.  I’ll admit that I found myself getting a little frustrated at times, but I don’t think it was poorly done or anything.  I was just too impatient and wanted to know what happened!  I recommend this one to people who enjoy a little romantic drama with their mystery.

Happy Reading!

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle

Infinite Moment of UsIs it getting hot in here, or is it just this book?!?  For my final I Read YA Week post – What should characters read? — I decided to go with a book that I think teens, real or fictional, should read before they become sexually active.  While plenty of YA books talk about sex and have scenes in which characters lose their virginity, they aren’t often as sexy as this story.  Sex is so often treated as a taboo topic in this country, and it’s good to know that there are authors out there who don’t shy away from how great sex can be when it’s part of a respectful, loving relationship.  Last night, I was contemplating how I would handle this book review, and then I saw an article a friend posted to Facebook – What If We Admitted to Children That Sex Is Primarily About Pleasure?  One part in particular struck a cord with me:

Our son asked why they didn’t tell him this stuff at school. The mate explained that adults stupidly think that if you tell children the truth about sex, they’ll have sex earlier than they really should. He added that the evidence indicates otherwise.”

Since so many parents are squeamish about talking to their kids, and schools focus on the doom and gloom — unintended pregnancy!  diseases! — I think books like this are a great way for teens to learn about how wonderful sex can be.  And, let’s be honest.  I would much rather my children learn vicariously about sex via books instead of watching R rated movies with their friends – because their brains will only fill in the details they are ready to process, and it’s easier for kids to walk away from a book they aren’t comfortable reading than to explain to their friends that they don’t feel ready to watch that movie yet.  When they’re ready to start having sex, nevertheless, I hope they will do it for all the right reasons, with the right person, safely, and enjoy every moment of it like Charlie and Wren.

Happy Reading!

Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin Book One by Robin LaFevers

grave mercyToday’s installment of I Read YA Week is RelationSHIP Day — and I am supposed to “play matchmaker to the YA universe.”  While I am guessing most people will be matching up couples, I think I am going to be different and match up some BFFs.  I recently listened to the audiobook of Grave Mercy, and I kept thinking of Katsa, from Graceling.  After all, she was also an assassin with mystical powers who was being used as a pawn in someone else’s plans.  I think these young women would find great comfort in each other’s company, and I can almost imagine them meeting up for tea or a glass of wine and to kvetch about the people they had to kill that week!  (To learn more about Katsa’s story, check out my Graceling review.)

The really cool thing about Ismae is that she was fathered by Death — aka Saint Mortain.  This was first discovered when she resisted the herbs her mother bought in an attempt to expel her from the womb.  The turnip farmer who raised her as his child despised her and treated her terribly, then he sold her off as a bride to a brutish man when she was seventeen.  On her wedding night, when her husband discovered the marks that had been left behind by the poison, he flew into a rage.  Ismae managed to escape and was taken away to live in a convent with the Sisters of Mortain, who trained her to be handmaiden of Death.  Ismae was trained to mix and administer a variety of poisons, to conceal and use all manner of weapons, and to use “womanly arts” to search potential targets for the mark of Mortain [which both confirmed that a person should be assassinated and also indicated how they would die].  Add in some double-agents, hidden plots, and a dash of romance, and you get an audiobook that made me sad to run into only light traffic on the way home!

Happy Reading!

I Read YA Week: Take a Personality Quiz as a Character

Today’s I Read YA Week activity doesn’t really lend itself to a book review, and I have been crazy busy today anyway, so I am going to just post the results of the quiz I took.  I decided to take the “Which Children’s Book Character Are You?” quiz as Hermione Granger [from the Harry Potter series].  To be honest, I chose Hermione because I identified with her quite a bit and felt that I could probably just choose my own answers more often than not.  Since there ended up being a few questions where I thought our answers might differ, though, I decided to take the quiz twice and compare the results.

When I took the quiz completely as myself, I got Stellaluna:

stellaluna

When I tried to be more mindful of Hermione’s quirks, though, it nudged me over to Mike Mulligan:

mike mulligan

 

 

Happy Reading!

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

between shades of grayToday’s I Read YA Week post is supposed to be “If Movies Were YA,” so I am posting about a book that I think should be turned into a movie.  Between Shades of Gray is a story that I think should be required reading for all high school students when they study world history, though I think a movie might do a better job of increasing awareness overall.  As I listened to this audiobook, I kept thinking, “This needs to be the next Schindler’s List.  Why is it that everyone talks about the horrors of the Holocaust and nobody ever talks about the Soviet Holodomor?”  I mean, I didn’t even know the term Holodomor (which roughly translates to “death by hunger”) until this book inspired me to do a little research.

I remember briefly covering Stalin and being taught about his “purges”… but I think we pretty much glossed over it on the way to an in-depth study of the Holocaust.  I mean, I definitely didn’t recall that the total death count was right up there with the Holocaust.  It is estimated that somewhere between 3 and 60 million people died during the Holodomor, with many estimates putting the death toll at around 7 million people.  SEVEN MILLION!  People talk about the Holocaust all the time.  They lament the fact that the Nazis killed 6 million Jews and another 5 million people [including Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, disabled people, and Gypsies] under Hitler’s rule.  There are numerous Holocaust museums and memorials in addition to a Holocaust Remembrance Day.  But, no one really talks much about what Stalin did.  My Facebook feed doesn’t “blow up” once a year to remind me of what Stalin did.  And that is a crying shame.  Some people may debate the death toll and ask, “Was it genocide?”  But, regardless of the exact number and the terminology you use, there is no debating the fact that millions of people died under Stalin’s regime.

I appreciate the author interview at the end of the audiobook, in which Ruta Sepetys explained her personal connection to the story, and I love that the official website for the book includes resources like a book discussion guide and a video of Ruta Sepetys discussing the novel.  I’m glad that this book has started to shed some more light on the Holodomor , and I can only pray that this light shines brightly, and widely, from here on.

Happy Reading!