Wednesday, June 30, 2010

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Summer is usually a fun time for Delphine and her two sisters. School is out and they can spend time in their neighbourhood with their father and grandmother. This summer, though, is going to be very different. Instead of staying in New York, they're going to be visiting their mother, who left shortly after the birth of her youngest girl. She's not interested in being a mother, and they're not interested in living in her politically active world. But as the summer moves on, Delphine and her sisters start to understand a bit more about what her mother and her Black Panther friends are fighting for.

This book is just so well-written. Rita Williams-Garcia has a tremendous ability of turning out a phrase that made me stop in my tracks. She created four great characters in Delphine and her sisters as well as their mother. The movement over the course of the book was perfect - characters coming to realizations and ideas naturally and organically and not ever having it seem fake. This book already has whispers of Newbery around it, and I can definitely see (and agree) why.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
No Laughter Here by Rita Williams-Garcia
The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon
This is the Dream by Diane ZuHone Shore

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Passive Aggressive Notes compiled by Kerry Miller

No two people are the same. And when adults have to live and work together, conflicts can come up. Some people deal with them head on, talking things out and letting people know when they are upset. with things more...passive aggressively. They write passive aggressive notes and then leave them where lots of people can see them. Sometimes these notes are saved and collected, and make their way to PassiveAggressiveNotes.Com. And then some of those made their way into this book.

What I learned from reading this book:
1. Having a roommate is not always as fun as it looks on Friends.
2. People are really confused by the 'i before e except after c' rule.
3. Dishes, especially dirty dishes, cause a lot of problems.

There's more, too, but those are the ones that stand out.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
PostSecret by Frank Warren
I Can't Keep My Own Secrets edited by Smith Magazine
Cake Wrecks by Jen Yates

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

When the doors of the box open, Thomas isn't sure where is. He doesn't know why he's there. He doesn't even know who he is. All he has are random memory flashes of his life - his former life. The other guys who find him quickly fill him in on what they know: they've all been sent there, and there's a maze that they have to solve. If they can, maybe they can leave. But the maze changes every day, and there are creatures out there that want to kill the guys. Thomas is unsettled by the feeling that he might have something to do with why they're there...and he might be the one to get them out.

I think this might be a good title for people looking for a read-alike to the Hunger Games. It's not exactly the same, of course, and it's got a male protagonist, but there are some similar elements. The book is well paced and held suspense nicely over 375 pages. It looks like it will be the first one in a series, or at least the first of two. I'll be checking out the next book because I want to know what comes next for these characters, especially Thomas, and why exactly these people were chosen.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Friday, June 25, 2010

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Gemma was just killing time before boarding a flight with her parents. She just wanted to have a coffee in one of the airport restaurants. When she didn't have the right currency to pay for a drink, the handsome stranger behind her offers to pay for it. She start talking, and it seems like they might be flirty with each other. Then everything changes. The world starts sliding in and out of focus; Gemma can't speak, can't yell, can't protest. When she regains consciousness, she realizes that he has taken her to a secluded location where no one will find them. And that's just the start of her nightmare.

I was reluctant to pick this one up, because I wasn't sure that I wanted to get involved with a gory thriller type of book. And while there is some action and it does involve a kidnapping, this is really much more of a psychological book that will mess with your head. As Gemma learns more about her captor, he seems like more of a monster - but also more of a human. And as she struggles to make sense of her kidnapping, the reader will also be forced to confront our perceptions of what is happening. I can't remember where I heard of this as a recommendation (it could have been a blog or a twitter post), but I'm really glad I read it.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Girl, Stolen by April Henry
They Never Came Back by Caroline B. Cooney
Bringing Elizabeth Home: A Journey of Faith and Hope by Ed Smart

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood

There are many different kinds of quiet: happy quiet, nervous quiet, sad quiet, sleepy quiet. These cuddly animals demonstrate all the different quiets that one might find from morning to night.

This book just made me smile. I'm a sucker for cute, cuddly animals, especially baby ones, in picture books (I loved Renata Liwska's illustrations and the book design in general). And I also like quiet. I think my favourite kinds of quiet are 'just before drifting off to sleep quiet,' 'reading a good book quiet' and 'processing news quiet'. Everyone has their own quiet moments, so it's a great book for lots of people, especially if you want to talk with kids about why people aren't noisy all of the time.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Let's Do Nothing by Tony Fucile
Five Minutes' Peace by Jill Murphy
A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker
Little Panda by Renata Liwska

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Struts and Frets by Jon Skovron

Sammy is going to be a musician. He's in a band with his friends (and a terrifying lead singer) and he writes all the songs. His grandfather was a musician, so he knows it won't be easy, especially since his mother doesn't really support it. He's also trying to transition from being just friends to boyfriend/girlfriend with his longtime best friend, and that's kind of weird. There's a big Battle of the Bands competition coming up, and that just could be exactly what Sammy's looking for to bring everything into focus.

When I first started reading and saw that Sammy had a female best friend, I thought, "Great, they're totally going to end up together." I was pleasantly surprised when this happened not at the end of the book but sort of near the beginning. It's all the stuff that happens after the 'hey, we should be together' moment that really makes for a good story. I liked Sammy as a character and felt for him as he was pulled in different directions. He seems like a good guy, and more than that, he was a character that I wanted to read about.

Jon Skovron's website.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Swim the Fly by Don Calame
Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford
Debbie Harry Sings in French by Meagan Brothers
Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern

Friday, June 18, 2010

Snark by David Denby

Snark: it's mean, it's personal, and it's ruining our generation. That's what David Denby is trying to get across in this book, and he states it right on the front cover. By looking at the historical origins of snark and tracing it up to its snarky presence in today's dialogues (and monologues), he is trying to make people aware of the harm that snark and snark-filled attitudes can do.

I would have identified myself as a user of snark before reading this book, but I do think now I will be more careful about using it and identifying with it. For me, the most interesting parts of the book had to do with the instances of snark surrounding the 2008 US Presidential campaigns. I'm still a little confused about all of the different rhetorical devices and styles (I don't think I will ever be comfortable using or defining irony), but this was a readable book on a topic definitely worth thinking about. It's a short book (the edition I was reading had 122 pages), so pick it up if you're looking to dive into some cultural studies.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman
Great Books by David Denby
The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll
Game Change by John Heilemann

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Big Nate in a Class By Himself by Lincoln Peirce

Big Nate isn't trying to get into trouble; it just seems to find him. He knows he's destined for greatness, he just isn't sure how to get there. One day he discovers a fortune: today you will surpass all others. This is exactly what he's been waiting for! But things won't go exactly the way he plans...

This was a very fun book to read. Lincoln Peirce's words and pictures work so well together (I wasn't familiar with the Big Nate comic strip, so this was my first exposure to his work). There's a smartness to Nate - he has a very sharp eye for the people around him - that balances out his goofiness. Older readers will likely be able to guess just how Nate will surpass all others well before Nate clues in, but finding out how he will get there was a pleasant journey.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
Babymouse: Queen of the World by Jennifer L. Holm

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell

Have you ever wondered what Carrie Bradshaw was like in high school? Candace Bushnell is betting that if you're a fan of Sex and the City, you have, and here is the book for you! The Carrie Diaries follows aspiring writer Carrie Bradshaw through her last year of high school - figuring out relationships with her friends, dealing with the attentions of a mysterious bad boy, wondering if she's going to be a virgin forever. The story ends with her making contact with someone who will be very big in the rest of her life - leaving me wondering if there might be a followup that focuses on Carrie Bradshaw: The Early 20s.

I'm not the most die-hard Sex and the City fan, but I've definitely seen the series (and the first movie), and I have a fairly good working knowledge of the show. There wasn't a lot of continuity between the book and the show in terms of the characters; most of what was there focused on the big stuff in Carrie's life - she wants to be a writer, she dreams of living in New York. At times it was hard to care about any of the other characters because I knew that by the time the series started, they were no longer important figures in Carrie's life in any way (including her family). I don't think that it added any insight into Carrie the character (she seemed sort of Mary Sue-ish at times), and most of the points of dramatic irony got tired ("Isn't it funny that the future sex columnist is a virgin?"). I think that this is best left for die-hard SATC fans; there are lots of other great options for people looking for a great YA novel.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman
L.A. Candy by Lauren Conrad
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Perfect Snow by Barbara Reid

Some days in winter you will wake up and find it - a perfect snow. Some dream of snow forts, some of snow men, some of snowball fights (but not at school). A perfect snow means an opportunity to create something really great. When Scott and Jim wake up one morning and see a perfect snow, they know it's going to be a good day.

Reading this book in June was a great idea, because I was able to enjoy the snow without cursing it (like I might have done if I'd read this book in the winter). Perfect Snow brought back a number of reminiscences from elementary school; I can't describe it, but looking at the Plasticine pictures even triggered a smell memory of art class. I loved how Barbara Reid connected the Plasticine scenes with drawings (for the first time) - this is a beautiful book, and well worthy of the 2010 Amelia Francis Howard-Gibbon Award for Illustration.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
The Subway Mouse by Barbara Reid
Waiting for Winter by Sebastian Meschenmosher
Snow Dance by Peggy Thomas

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Bad Boy Can Be Good For a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

Josie can hardly believe it when she catches the eye of a hot, popular senior - she's just a freshman. She's excited by the attention and ready to explore this relationship. But when she finds out that all he wants is sex - and that he's made that clear to all of his friends - Josie is embarrassed, hurt, and angry. She decides to use the library's copy of Forever to write a warning to other girls.

Josie is one of three teens featured in this book; Nicolette, a girl who likes exploring her sexuality but is concerned about how other people see her, and Aviva, a smart senior unaligned with any clique, also get their turn at the narrative, sharing how they too began relationships with this guy. I'm still adjusting to reading verse novels, but I really enjoyed this book and thought it was a great way to delve into the different voices and headspaces of all three characters.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Forever by Judy Blume
Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman
The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell
Almost Astronauts by Tanya Lee Stone
The Best and Hardest Thing by Pat Brisson

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Non-Review: 150th Post

I'm breaking form a bit and doing a non-review post.

This is my 150th post in just about a year and a half, but I've only been seriously doing it on a regular basis for maybe eight months. I'm in a little in-between period where I have so many books on the go but I haven't finished any yet, so there won't be any new reviews until next week.

In the meantime, here is an almost A-Z list of some of the books from the last 148 reviews:

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone
Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan
Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Feminism and Pop Culture by Andi Zeisler
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Sandiford
I Know It's Over by C.K. Kelly Martin
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
The Kids Are All Right by Diana and Liz Welch with Amanda and Dan Welch
Little Mouse Gets Ready by Jeff Smith
Me Hungry by Jeremy Tankard
The Next Competitor by K.P. Kincaid
Overqualified by Joey Comeau
Paulina P. (for Peterson) by Lisa Cinar
Redwoods by Jason Chin
The Screwed-Up Life of Charlie the Second by Drew Ferguson
The Thingamabob by Il Sung Na
A Very Fine Line by Julie Johnston
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Yummy by Lucy Cousins
Zoom by Tim Wynne-Jones

If anyone has some great Q, U, or X recommendations, leave them in the comments!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Regina is part of one of the tightest cliques in school. They are cool, powerful, and feared by everyone else in the school. Then everything starts going wrong. Her best friend Anna's boyfriend tries to force himself on her, and knowing Anna will still be jealous and blame her, Regina instead tells Kara, another friend, about what happened. Kara then spreads the rumour that Regina had sex with this guy. Regina is then frozen out of the group. 'WHORE' is painted on her locker, an anti-Regina group is set up online, she gets locked in a closet. High school becomes a living hell - and Regina realizes how her actions in the past have hurt people, just like she is being hurt.

Just as with Cracked Up to Be, I found this to be a hard book to read, and even more difficult to put down. Regina is a difficult character. I hated reading about what she was going through, how petty but destructive the other characters where being. Part of why I was so intrigued by Regina was that I don't know if she ever really reconciled her past and her actions with how she was now being treated. I know that there was a big move near the end of the book was was to show how far she'd come, but you could also see how much she was at times enjoying fighting back against her tormentors. This isn't a fault in the writing of Courtney Summers, but just a depiction of a very complex character. Reading this book was totally worth only getting a few hours of sleep.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers
By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters
Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes
Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Benny and Penny in The Toy Breaker by Geoffrey Hayes

Benny and Penny have lots of great toys. They also have a cousin, Bo, who has a reputation as a toy breaker. When he comes for a visit, they try to hide all of their toys so he can't find them. Will they be able to get through his visit with all of their toys intact?

Fans of Benny and Penny's earlier adventures will enjoy this new story, perfect for kids who are just learning to read. Reading this book made me struggle between my memories of being a kid and my headspace of being an adult. The adult in me wondered if Benny and Penny were being too hard on Bo, if maybe he acts out because others treat him badly. But then I would remember what it was like to be a kid and have to play with people who took over, who broke things, who just ruined it. I think it's a book that will speak to a lot of people - and the positive ending a good message for everyone of any age.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Little Mouse Gets Ready by Jeff Smith
Luke on the Loose by Harry Bliss
Cat the Cat, Who is That? by Mo Willems
Benny and Penny in Just Pretend by Geoffrey Hayes
Stinky by Eleanor Davis

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Troy High by Shana Norris

Troy vs. Lecede; Trojans vs. Spartans. It's a football rivalry that has been going on for years. When Elena moves from Lecede to Troy and dumps her old boyfriend in favour of a new Trojan, she sets off a chain of events that will not end well. Cassie Prince had a vision of how it was all going to go down, but no one would listen to her. Now she's trapped in this dangerous world and feels pulled between her football playing brothers and her Spartan best friend.

This is a fun idea for a book. I don't know if the idea of taking ancient Troy and putting in the modern world has been done before, but it seems like a pretty good fit. When I read books that are based on other things, I always wonder if the original just doesn't exist in this new world. A common example is A Christmas Carol - in all of the remakes of it set in the modern world, was the Dickens work ever written? In this case, it's The Iliad, and the story of the Trojan war. Do people not know about it? What about things like a Trojan horse? Have people heard of that? So I wonder a bit about that. Still, it's a good spin on high school rivalry.

Find it at IndieBound.
The Iliad by Homer
Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton
Alphas by Lisi Harrison
It Can't Happen Here by Francine Pascal
Beastly by Alex Flinn

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The River by Mary Jane Beaufrand

Veronica can't believe her eyes; one day while out jogging, she discovers the body of her ten-year-old neighbour. She has hated living in the small town of Hoodoo ever since she and her parents moved there, but now she has to deal with the death of someone she felt very close to. Over the following week, she discovers that her friend's death might not have been an accident, and that there might be things going on around her that she'd never imagined.

I liked Veronica as a narrator. At times she seemed very naive, which I think fit well with me, because there was a lot that happened in the book that I didn't see coming. The story was well-plotted and the writing was precise and direct. There was one point near the end of the story where Veronica did something and I just thought "really? is that a smart thing to do?" but I could kind of see why she was doing it. If you're looking for a tight mystery with a little big of romance, this would be a great choice.

Find it at IndieBound.

Read it with:
Reality Check by Peter Abrahams
The Third Eye by Lois Duncan
All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab