Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Midnight Magic (2004)

A reluctant magician, his assistant, a princess in a castle, a ghost, an evil count, secret passages and a missing prince are the ingredients of this delicious little book by Avi. The king calls for the magician, Mangus, to help get rid of a ghost that is haunting his young daughter. Mangus' assistant, Fabrizio, helps solve this mystery by exploring the castle, meeting people, and reporting back to his master. Mangus uses his knowledge of human behavior to try and discover the truth behind the ghost before the princess has to marry the evil Count Scarazoni.
This story takes place in medieval Italy and gives the reader a good idea of what life in a big castle was like. The cover and fly leaves of the book are decorated in medieval style illustrations which attracted me to the book. I enjoyed following Fabrizio around the castle, in and out of secret passages, eavesdropping on, and meeting the other residents of the castle. The ending was not a terrific surprise but I loved following the plot to the end.
A combination of historical fiction and mystery, this book would amuse someone looking for a quick read.
My rating for this book: +++

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A house Called Awful End

One of the fun aspects of working in a library is finding things that people have left in their books. I have found IDs, money, notes, and scraps of paper. When I opened this book, an index card fell out. Perfect, I thought, a book mark. Drawn on the card was a face with a dark grimace on it. I hoped it wasn't an omen.
This book by Philip Ardagh is very, very, very similar in style to the wonderful Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. The author takes time out of the story to explain expressions to the reader and at one point, the characters of the story even refer to the page number of the book. Unfortunately, the ratio of explanations to story is much higher and much less charming in this story about Eddie Dickens, a young man who has to leave his home to stay with his crazy aunt and uncle until his parents recover from illness. Eddie has none of the gumption of the Beaudelaire children and is pushed around in this book like a empty soda bottle in the ocean. He is even as transparent and empty as the bottle. One thing I liked about Awful End was the explanations about life in England at the time of Charles Dickens.
This book was written for a younger audience and may be enjoyed by readers who also enjoyed the Snicket books.
My rating for this book: ++

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa (2008)

Is there any bigger pleasure than reading a book that gives you a smile? I had one in my mind the whole time I read this book! As a big fan of the series of books written about Precious Ramotswe that take place in Botswana, I was drawn to this book written by Nicholas Drayson that takes place in Kenya. Mr. Malik is a member of a bird watching club headed by Rose Mbikwa, a woman he admires but he is too shy to approach. He is challenged by a more assertive man to a bird counting contest, the winner of which has the honor of asking Rose to the Nairobi Hunt Club Ball. All does not go well for Mr. Malik as events prevent him from getting to the best bird watching places.
I was not able to put this book down as I commiserated with and cheered for Mr. Malik's quest to be Rose's escort.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants a break from books about mean and violent people. If you are a fan of birds, this makes the book even more of a treat.
My rating for this book: +++++

The Beekeeper's Apprentice (2007)

Shame on me! Almost a month since my last post! It was a busy time but I was still able to fit a couple of books in.
Laurie R. King's book introduces a young woman, Mary Russell, who meets Sherlock Holmes (trips over him in fact) and becomes his very able sidekick. This story takes place after the stories in the original books written by Arthur Conan Doyle. Holmes is almost in hiding since his friend, Dr. Watson, has publicized his cases in the papers. Mary is an orphan, living with a grouchy aunt, and studying so she can attend Oxford. He appreciates her quick mind and takes her under his wing and she helps him solve cases.
It is no secret I love Sherlock Holmes stories and to pair him with a young woman is a real pleasure for me. I will keep an eye out for more of King's books.
I recommend this to Sherlock Holmes fans and mystery lovers.
My rating for this book: +++++

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Redwall (2002)

Several years ago I had the pleasure of hearing the author of Redwall, Brian Jacques, speak. He said he started writing when he was unable to find good, descriptive books to read aloud at a school for the blind. That's why his books are so rich with description.
"Cluny was a bilge rat; the biggest, most savage rodent that ever jumped from ship to shore. He was black, with grey and pink scars all over his huge sleek body, from the tip of his wet nose, up past his green and yellow slitted, eye, across both his mean tattered ears, down the length of his heavy vermin-ridden back to the enormouse whiplike tail which had earned him his title: Cluny the Scourge!"
The parallels to The Lord of the Rings are too numerous to mention but mice, shrews, and sparrows (men, dwarves, and elves) fight off invasion from rats (orcs). Frodo, oops, I mean Harry Potter, er, I mean Matthias, discovers his destiny to follow in the footsteps of Martin the Warrior. The resemblance between Matthias and an image of Martin in a tapestry had gone unnoticed until the abbey was threatened. He goes on a quest to recover Martin's sword to help defend Redwall Abbey from the rats. While leaving his friends behind to fend for themselves, he faces dangers and meets new allies along the way to recovering this valuable artifact.
I had been meaning to read Redwall for many years and I am glad I finally did. I doubt I will read the entire series (ah, the old problem of so many books and too little time) but it is not because I wouldn't enjoy them.
I recommend this book to fans of adventure books. It's an enjoyable good vs. evil story.
My rating for this book: +++

Monday, November 10, 2008

Revelations (2008)

This is the third book in the Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz and I have to say I did not enjoy it as much as the first two. It seems that everyone has a second angel name and it was confusing as to which were the good angels and which were the bad angels.

I was disappointed, too, because I was left feeling that I have to wait for the next book (good for the author's bank account but frustrating for me). Since Rowling and Meyer have their readers comfortable with books reaching up to 600 pages, it seems that de la Cruz might have given us more with this book and not left us hanging in the wind.

I would recommend that readers wait until the series is finished and then read them all at once. Fans of vampire romance books will love this series.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty (2008)

It's interesting, sometimes, to figure out exactly what attracts you to a certain book. In this case, I was intrigued by the term "triple shot betty". When I read the description of the book, I was further drawn in by the fact that it took place in Sonoma, just over the hill from my home! My confession is that I am not a real fan of chick lit, even though I have to admit that once I start reading a book of this genre, I find I like the main character, feel sorry when something bad happens, and celebrate when everything is fixed (if that's the case). In Jody Gehrman's book, Geena is looking forward to a summer where her best friend, Amber, and her cousin, Hope, meet and the three of them enjoy hanging out. Well, you know that if that was all that happened it wouldn't be a very interesting book. Geena is smart and funny and has a totally unique view of the world. I highly recommend this book to girls who enjoy revenge stories.
My rating for this book: +++

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hunger Games (2008)

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is like Survivor on steroids. In a futuristic land called Panem, one boy and one girl are selected by drawing to represent their district in a competition called Hunger Games. The lone survivor is the winner and returns home to live comfortably for the rest of their life. Katniss lives with her widowed mother and younger sister in the 12th district where the main occupation is coal mining. Since her father was killed in the mines, she has learned to sneak outside the electrified fence to supplement her family's food with animals she hunts with a bow and arrow. When her sister is chosen for the games, she volunteers to go in her place and is paired with Peeta, the son of the town's baker.

Comparisons to the TV reality shows that seem to have taken over television these days is easy. Competitors are mentored by previous winners from their district and they are fed, dressed, and prepped for the program. They receive a locator which is injected in their arm and are presented to the county in televised interviews. Cameras cover their every move.

The action is riveting. Some of the kids have been training for this competition since they were very young so they are larger, stronger, and more skilled with weapons than our heroes. Some of the competitors are even smaller and weaker than Katniss but all of them have a talent that helps them survive for a time. The biggest enemy of all of them is the Capitol, host of the games, who is not adverse to using tricky tactics to make the game more interesting for the viewing audience.

I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy a good action book with a little science fiction thrown in. Kids killing each other may be disturbing but happily enough, there are rules against cannibalism so we are spared there. ;-}
My rating for this book: ++++

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Generation Dead (2009)

Many schools have had to deal with integration problems. Different races, different sexualities, different abilities, or conditions such as HIV/AIDS have shaken up the social structure of schools through the years. Now, Oakvale High is presented with a new influx - the undead - or biotically different, to be more politically correct. Daniel Waters introduces us to several teens in the middle of this turmoil. Phoebe is friends with Adam and Margi (all living) and has a crush on Tommy (undead). Pete is a narrow minded, violent bully who doesn't believe that BDs belong in his school, much less on his football team. Tommy is our window into this new phenomenon. We follow all of these kids as they (and we) learn more about BDs and their developing culture.

Waters has created an interesting scenario for studying the dynamics of prejudice; overt and unintentional. How and where do they live? Do they have bodily functions and feelings? What does one do when you have a crush on one of them? He has chosen a perfect subject to study the different facets of integration by creating a totally new and inplausible subject that doesn't parallel any existing relationship.

A small complaint I have about this book is the cover. At first look, one might assume it is a book primarily aimed at young women but it is equally from boys' points of view and includes many detailed scenes on the football field. Unfortunately, I fear that most boys would be put off by the cover with a zombie cheerleader. They would be missing out on an excellent read.

I highly recommend this book for readers who enjoy books about difficult relationships.
My rating for this book: ++++

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


"The How-to Manual that You Can Edit" http://www.wikihow.com/

Have you ever caught yourself saying "I wonder how I could...." and then stopped because you don't know where you could look up something or who could answer your question? Here's where you can find the answer! I put a link to this site on my iGoogle page and read a new "How To" everyday. Today was a wonderful article on how to bake cookies. There are always pictures that help demonstrations and links at the bottom to related articles and resources.

I learned how to make the most darling pop up cards for Christmas. I read about how to braid a horse's tail. Choose the Education and Communications category and get lots of articles on homework help (How to Do Your Homework on Time if You are a Procrastinator) and presentations (How to Create Less Annoying Powerpoints). Were you curious about how to make a crop circle? Here's the place to learn how.

Of particular interest is the category "Youth." In these pages are all sorts of things to try of special interest to young people. Young people are invited to help edit these pages so here's your chance to step up to the plate and show how much you know about a topic.

Fun and informative, this is a great site.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Death in the Air (2008)

This is the second book in the series by Shane Peacock about the young Sherlock Holmes. The boy Sherlock lost his mother in the first book, Eye of the Crow, and now lives with an old apothecary, Sigerson Bell, who teaches the boy about poisons and self defense. One of the very intereesting aspects of this book is how Sherlock connects parts of London with sites in Charles Dickens' novels. It surely puts the Holmes character into historical perspective.

Sherlock's drive to solve the near death of a trapeze artist is fueled by the desire to help Bell financially and to continue to hone his investigatory skills. With the help of an underground character, Malefactor, he ties in the acrobatic accident with a major theft. The police detective, LeStrade, who appears in the grownup Holmes stories, is the son of a detective from Scotland Yard and recognizes Holmes' talents even though his father does not.

This is a wonderful series and I look forward to reading more of them. Readers of mysteries and historical fiction will enjoy the physical action and tour of historical London.
My rating for this book: +++

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Tale of One Bad Rat (1995)

This is a fabulous graphic novel which portrays a young girl who runs away from an abusive household and how she finds herself with the help from, of all people, the author Beatrix Potter. Bryan Talbot is the British author-illustrator who has created this story which takes Helen to the streets of London where she falls in with a group of homeless kids. She finds that one of the unfortunate effects of abuse is being unable to form relationships and ends up running away from them, too. She ends up working in a pub for an older couple in the countryside where Beatrix Potter was inspired to write and illustrate her books. The rest of the story is a satisfying one of self-realization and eventually confronting her parents in order to begin the healing process.
I think anyone who has suffered abuse might find hope in this book and I highly recommend it. The only warning about this book is the heavy use of unfamiliar cockney slang in the street scenes.
My rating for this book: ++++

The Quest of the Fair Unknown (2008)

Imagine that you were born in the forest and grew up knowing only your mother. Imagine that just before she died she told you only that your father was a knight of the Round Table. Off you go in the world with only that knowledge. Beaufils (his mom's name for him which translates to "handsome son") goes off in search of his father. Well, it seems that almost everyone he meets in off in search of one thing or another. During this time in history, if there wasn't anything going on, the kings would send the knights off on quests so they wouldn't hang around fighting each other. Beaufils finds his way to Camelot, meets King Arthur, and realizes that finding out who his father is will not be as easy as he thought.
This book reminded me of The Little Prince, a French book about a boy who leaves his home planet and meets a lot of interesting characters. I love the subtle humor in this book.

"Does everyone have a title?" Beaufils asked.
"No," Gawain replied. "It's a special privilege, and the people who have a title sometimes
think it makes them very special indeed."
Beaufils smiled at Gawain's witticism. He had to be joking, of course; Beaufils knew that
people would never really think they were special just because of extra words tacked onto
their name.

Readers who enjoy Round Table stories will love this book and others by this author.
My rating for this book: ++++

Monday, August 25, 2008

Breaking Dawn (2008)

I have finally been able to finish the last book in this series by Stephenie Meyer and I am not at all disappointed with the ending. I can't talk too much about this book without spoiling the story so I will just say that Ms. Meyer has left the possibility open for a spinoff series featuring Jacob. There was a discussion about the difference between shape shifters and werewolves that seemed to come from nowhere and which gave me the feeling that we would see more on that topic!
This series was all about love between two very different people and the sacrifices we sometimes have to make for the success of the relationship. Of course, the sacrifices made for this relationship could be considered much greater than most of us would have to make but we are just ordinary humans after all, right?
It is a great pleasure to have a series of books that introduce new characters and situations. When you have finished one book you can look forward to the next. It's almost like reading one humongous book!
I am now looking forward to seeing Twilight, the movie.
My rating for this book: +++++

Monday, August 11, 2008

Momma Mia! (DVD, 2008)

The word that keeps coming back to me for this movie is "exuberant"! I think that Meryl Streep is able to add a level of dignity to every movie she is in, even the comedies, and she has shown me a new side of her with her singing and dancing. (I was surprised to learn she trained to be an opera singer when she was young.) Her character, Donna Sheridan, lives with her daughter on a small Greek island running an old inn. The story opens with 20-year old Sophie (Amande Seyfried) telling her two bridesmaids how she read her mother's diary and learned that there were three men (Pierce Brosnan, Collin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgard) who could be her father and that she sent wedding invitations to all three. Will she learn which one is her father?
This is a musical which incorporates songs originally performed by the 70s rock group, ABBA. I was a big fan of this group because their music was so sing-alongable and it was so hard to sit there during the movie and refrain from singing along.
I have to say that Pierce should stick with straight acting. But otherwise, this is a must see movie.
My rating for this movie: +++++

Saturday, August 2, 2008

World Without End (2008)

This book takes place in 14th century England in a town called Wigleigh and chronicles the lives of people in various levels of society such as nuns and monks, earls, serfs, and merchants and their relationships between each other. It takes over 1000 pages to tell their stories. One of the things you learn from this book is that it sucked to be a woman during those times and it sucked big time if you were a poor woman. Our characters face one disaster after another: collapsed bridge and cathedral, plague, rape, famine and all the other things people had to live through at that time. No electricity, steam engines, or printing press to make life easier. The only technological advance was the loom. But through it all, people fell in love, had babies and raised them, and made do the best they could. Giving up was not an option for these folks.
This is indeed a hefty book but it reads fast. Conversations and descriptions aren't very deep and you get caught up in the battle of good and evil and you are carried along in the currents that carry our characters through their lives.
I read this book in my car while my daughter was in meetings. It definitely helps having a place to read with little distraction.
I highly recommend this book to people who enjoy historical fiction and aren't intimidated by large books.
My rating for this book: +++++

Monday, July 28, 2008

Battlestar Gallactica

This science fiction series produced by the SciFi Channel has got to be one of the most extraordinary series I have seen in a long while. I have to admit that I have not watched the series as it was originally shown, but I am catching up with the series by renting the DVDs through Netflix. The star of the show is Edward James Olmos, an actor who is able to portray strength and power with a very restrained manner. The series opens after a Cyborg rebellion on the plant of Caprica. Most of the human population is annihalated by nuclear weapons but there is still a large number of humans on various space ships, one of which is the Gallactica commanded by Commander Adama (Olmos). They manage to stay together through a series of "jumps" trying to evade the Cyborgs until they manage to shake them. The senior most government member, Colonial Secretary of Education, played by Mary McDonnell assumes the position of President and, together with Adama, begin the task of organizing the ships, inventoring supplies and personnel, and discuss finding a new home world. Complicating this is the fact that there are Cyborgs hidden among the crews. They have a number of models which look human.
I don't want to rehash the many twisting plot lines but I hope I can entice you to enjoy this series. I have been watching the episodes with my son and not one has gone by without an "OMG" or two. The twists and turns in this series make every episode exciting and leave me waiting for the next one to arrive.
I admit to being a big fan of all the Star Trek series and other scifi series such as Babylon 5 and Firefly but this show outshines other series like a nova. Rent the series at Blockbuster or another company, make up a bucket of popcorn, and strap yourself in for a ride!
My rating for this series: +++++

Friday, July 4, 2008

Charlie Bartlett (DVD, 2008)

Charlie (Anton Yelchin) is quite a character. He's rich, smart, bored, troubled, and imaginative. This is a classic recipe for disaster. When he is kicked out of yet another private school, his mother enrolls him in the local public high school. His first contact with the student body is on the school bus, sitting by a special needs student. It takes no time at all for him to attract the attention of the school bully, Murphey (Tyler Hilton), and Susan (Kat Dennings) who happens to be the daughter of the principal (Robert Downing Jr.). He uses the old saying, "If you can't beat them, join them" and goes into business with Murphey supplying advice and drugs to fellow students from his "office" in the boys' bathroom. What ensues is a real mixup for the school as well as the principal and Charlie's mother. Charlie has a gift of seeing into people and learns how to talk AND listen to them.
This was a fun movie with lots of new faces (new to me). Created for teens, this movie adresses many of the problems faced by many high schoolers. It would please me to learn that a teen watching might take a new view of his or her problems and gain a new perspective to help the difficult and painful high school years.
My rating for this movie: +++

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


It's my last day at work and I have looked through the shelves to pull a few books to read over the summer. But first I have to finish reading the books I have already started! I am currently reading two books; World Without End by Ken Follett and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. World Without End is a sequel of sorts to The Pillars of the Earth, takes place in 12th century England and is nearly 1,000 pages long. One of the things that makes both of these books so readable is that the characters speak modern English. World Without End takes place 200 years later in the same English town and is just over 1,000 pages long. They both are fascinating novels that take you into the lives of the lowest and highest born and into the political intrigue that takes place between the clergy, the military, the merchants, and royalty. I highly recommend these books to fans of historical fiction and long books.
Love in the Time of Cholera is my first book by this author and is very different from other books I have read. I am presently half way through the book and I feel that I am still waiting for the story to begin, like I am still reading the introduction. One of the reasons, I think, that I have this feeling is because he still calls all of the characters by their whole names.
Now that it is summer, I plan on making my minted ice tea, take a tall glass filled with ice and my book out to the backyard, put my feet up, and read, read, read.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Book Thief (2007)

This is an extraordinary Holocaust story written by Marcus Zusak. Liesel Meminger is eleven years old when she moves to the small town of Molching near Munich to live with Hans and Rosa Hubermann. The story is told by Death who follows Liesel's life in between his calls to duty delivering souls from people who die (which keeps him very busy as you can well imagine). He considers himself a student of human behavior and Liesel constantly surprises him. When she arrives at the Hubermann house she is unable to read but has a book with her called The Gravedigger's Handbook which had fallen out of the pocket of one of the men who helped bury her little brother. Amidst all the horror and tragedy, this girl can always find a way to show kindness and compassion to others around her. Her overwhelming desire to learn how to read and her love of reading drives her to find books wherever she can. Once she even pulled a book out of a bonfire of books considered not suitable for reading. Considering how many of these types of book end up tragically, I thought I was in for a sob fest. Yes, there were horrors all through the book, but Liesel's outlook on life is truely inspiring.
If you enjoy (?!) reading books about the Holocaust, don't miss this one. If you don't enjoy reading books that take place during the Holocaust, don't miss this one. It's a great story of keeping one's humanity when everyone else is losing theirs.
My rating for this book: +++++

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Golden Compass (DVD, 2008)

This is a don't miss movie. I'm sorry I missed it in the theater. The CGI is magnificent. I could run out of superlatives describing this film starring a remarkable young woman named Dakota Blue Richards playing the lead role as Lyra. Nicole Kidman plays a deliciously evil Mrs. Coulter and Sam Eliot is absolutely perfect as Lee Scoresby.
Based on a book by Philip Pullman, this is a wonderful, fantasy, gutsy girl story full of amazing creatures and chilly locations.
Fantasy fans should not miss this!
My rating for this movie: +++++

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Juno (DVD, 2008)

Ellen Page plays a teenager who gets pregnant and decides to give it up for adoption. She finds a couple (played by Justin Bateman and Jennifer Garner) who want to be parents to her baby (she much more than her husband). We follow Juno from when she first learns she's pregnant, makes the tough decision about keeping the child, and procedes through her pregnancy. Juno's character is very bright, very sarcastic, and she becomes truly concerned about the future of her child.
With all of the "drama" of high school, this movie shows how pregnancy takes the reality of life to a whole new level and launches Juno into adulthood just that much sooner. Her pregnancy is not glamorized and the decisions she has to make are not trivialized. With all of her wisecracking, she takes care of herself, continues to attend school, and takes the steps necessary to ensure a good place for her child.
I loved this movie but I have grown very tired of the song they sang at the end.
My rating for this movie: ++++

The Miracle at Speedy Motors (2008)

This is the ninth book in Alexander McCall Smith's series which started with The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and I have loved every one of them. Precious Ramotswe started her detective agency in Gaborone, Botswana after her father died and left her a herd of cattle. Through the series she has been joined by an assistant named Mma Makutsi, married Mr. J.L.B. Maketoni, and adopted two orphans, one of whom is confined to a wheelchair. This series has taken me to a very foreign country and immersed me in its gentle and proud culture. Technology in her business is limited to a telephone and a typewriter. Large women are referred to as "traditionally built". She putters around in an old white van and helps people solve mysteries. In this book, she helps a woman look for information about her birth mother and seeks the writer of threatening notes. Not as exciting as Tom Clancy or as technologically savvy as Patricia Cornwell's characters, Mma Ramotswe uses her knowledge of human character to find answers. When I read these books I purposely slow down so that they last longer. I can give a book no higher praise.
My rating for this book (and the whole series) - +++++

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Looking for JJ (2007)

I didn't do it on purpose. Honest. Somehow I just read two books in a row about girls trying to shed their past. Anne Cassidy is a British writer who has written a story about a girl who made a terrible mistake. This time, however, it is a ten-year old girl, Jennifer, who hit her friend, Michelle, with a bat killing her. The events leading up to this tragedy involve a mother making poor choices, not considering how they might affect her child. The victim was a rather obnoxious child who didn't much think about how her actions affected people. Throw into the mix a family with a sick mother, an absentee father, two nutso brothers and a girl with little backbone. The mother had to go to the hospital so the girl, Lucy, moved into Michelle's house, putting more pressure on Jennifer and Michelle's relationship. Things came to a head when Lucy's brothers put into plain language the unfortunate career choice Jennifer's mother was taking and Michelle made one thoughtless remark too many.
The story jumps back and forth from Jennifer's present life-in-hiding to her past. She spent a few years in prison and was released to live with her parole officer with a new identity. It wasn't easy to hide a secret like this especially with the press clamoring for a good story. When it looked like her cover was blown, what would happen to her? Would her new boyfriend understand? Would she be able to attend the university.
The language and pacing of this story feel a little awkward like many British novels do but it is well worth the time. My rating for this book: +++

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Story of a Girl (2007)

What's this? Two blogs in one day? How can this be? Well, I started "Masquerade" but it was checked out before I could finish. So I started "Story of a Girl". Because of our library being closed, I had lots of time to read so I finished both books in one day. Truely, I do work in the library.
Sara Zarr has given us a story of how hard it is to overcome one event in our lives. Deanna was 13 years old when she started having sex with a 17-year old friend of her brother. Her father caught them in the act and pulled her out of Tommy's car. Tommy displayed his maturity by telling everyone about the event and she was labeled a slut, a reputation that was impossible to live down.
Three years later Deanna has not even had a single date, her father still won't look at her, and everyone still considers her a slut and whispers behind her back. She feels that there is nothing she can do to get past this.
"This is the thing: Pacifica is a stupid small town with only one real high school, where everyone knows everyone else's business and the rumors never stop until some other kid is dumb enough to do something that makes a better story. But my story had the honor of holding the top spot for over two years running. I mean, a senior getting caught with his pants down on top of an eighth-grade girl, by the girl's father ("No way! Her father? I'd just kill myself!") was pretty hard to beat."
Deanna is a strong girl who refuses to be beaten down. Even when she takes a job where she comes in daily contact with the source of her problem, she pushes on, determined to show everyone she is better than they realize.
I highly recommend this to girls in school who feel they are marked for life by one event. Deanna's solution will give them hope and maybe an idea on how to change others' views.
My rating for this book: ++++

Masquerade: A Blue Bloods Novel (2007)

Schuyler is hot on the trail of the Silver Bloods in this sequel to "Blue Bloods" by Melissa De La Cruz. This book opens with Schuyler going to Venice with Oliver to search for answers from her grandfather. Meanwhile, back in the world of the vampires in New York City, plans are in motion for the biggest event of the year, the Four Hundred Ball. Someone is sheltering the Silver Blood responsible for the attacks on the Blue Bloods and they have to be found. The more Blue Bloods he (or she) kills, the harder it will be to destroy him so time is of the essence.
In this sequel, Schuyler learns about being a vampire and how to use her special skills. One of these skills even helps save Mimi from having her blood burned when she was suspected of being the Silver Blood. There's more to come in this series. Also, her relationship with Oliver changes in a very dramatic way!
My rating for this book: ++++

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Agnes Quill - An Anthology of Mystery (2006)

It seems to me that some of the graphic novels I have read have would be good bridges to encourage graphic novel fans to also read novels. This one, though, would introduce readers who have not tried graphic novels to a whole other world of books.
Agnes is a teenaged detective who has inherited the ability to see and communicate with spirits. "Did grandfather feel these spirits as strongly as I do now? I never considered how spirits have a physical presence, but I guess they really do."
She takes most of her cases for pay but some she takes to help spirits who can't pay her. In one case, she tracks down the legs of a man who was the victim of a magic show gone bad. He knew they were still around somewhere and needed Agnes' help to find them. With assistance of a spirit named Beatrix she tracks them down to a maniacal robot who is controlling a boy to collect body parts for him. This could be a very dark storyline but Agnes truely cares for the spirits and is generous with her help.
I highly recommend this book to graphic novel fans and to readers who haven't enjoyed one yet.
My rating for this book: +++++

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sunrise over Fallujah (2008)

"But over and over I thought that we were in a war of complete randomness. Death was hiding in every shadow, lurking along every roadway, flying through the midday air. It came suddenly and randomly. There was no logic except the constant adding up of numbers. How many are dead? What are the names? Where are the pictures for the hometown papers?"
This latest book by Walter Dean Myers takes place in Iraq. Robin, nicknamed Birdy, is attached to a Civil Affairs unit. They don't see as much action as the infantry but are responsible for trying to communicate with locals. They have medical personnel and a translator. Birdy sends letters home to his uncle who served in Viet Nam (Fallen Angels) because he knows that only someone who has been in war can understand his experiences and feelings.
This is an outstanding book that gives the reader a taste of what the war in Iraq must be like. I recommend this book to everyone.
My rating for this book: +++++

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Murder Mysteries (2002)

If a stranger offers to tell you a story, you may end up learning a lot more than you bargained for. In this case, a young man waiting for a flight to his home country, England, is asked for a cigarette in exchange for a story. Having just returned from a disturbing encounter with a woman from his past, he gives the old man a cigarette and listens to a story of angels and murder. But these are not cute little angelic angels. One of them, named Lucifer (familiar?), charges Raguel with the task of learning who murdered another angel named Carasel. Raguel interviews angels to learn who were the last ones to see Carasel. Along the way we get an idea how things such as Love and Death may have come into existence and why.
I found this novel a bit disturbing since it involved touchy topics of religion and sex but I had to read it to the end to find out how it ended.
My rating for this book: +++

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pedro and Me (2000)

Judd Winick, the author and illustrator of this graphic novel, agreed to be a participant in the MTV series The Real World in 1994. He roomed with Pedro, a smart, funny, attractive young man who is HIV positive. Pedro has devoted much of his time to speaking to kids in school to educate them about HIV and AIDS. By accompanying him to these events, Judd learns about aspects of the disease and he becomes aware of the stigma suffered by its victims.
"I'm open-minded. I got that way because of my parents. They weren't hippies, just decent and reasonable loving people. You didn't have to be a weenie liberal like me to accept someone like Pedro."
It's amazing how wrapped up you can get in a story, even if it is in graphic novel format. You read the words and then pause to study the characters faces and the emotions there. I highly recommend this book to anyone.
My rating for this book: +++++

Touching Spirit Bear (2001)

Fantastic book!
Cole is angry. His father is angry, drinks, and beats him. His mother drinks and doesn't stop the beatings. Cole is so angry that he beats another boy, Peter, badly enough he suffers brain damage. Some people believe that prison is too good for Cole but some don't. They feel that a system known as Justice Circle might come up with an alternative that could have better results. Peter's parents and lawyer, Cole's parents and their lawyers, two Tlingit Indians, several other people from the community, and the judge meet to discuss Cole and his problems. Their solution is banishment to an island in Alaska to live by himself for one year.
"Everyone thought he felt sorry for what he had done, and going to this island was his way of making things right. Nothing could be further from the truth. To Cole, this was just another big game."
Of course, the first thing Cole does when left on the island is burn down his shelter and supplies. That'll show them! An unusual species of bear, known as the Spirit Bear, shows up on the island, and darn if it doesn't show Cole any fear. How dare it! Cole fashions a spear from a sapling and the next time that bear shows his face, Cole attacks him with the spear and a knife. Cole is rescued two days later after laying on the beach with broken ribs, pelvis, leg, and arm. Not being able to move and suffering unimagineable pain might make some do serious reflection.
I highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy survival stories and satisfying endings.
My rating for this book: +++++

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Blue Bloods (2007)

If you've read the "Twilight" series by Stephenie Meyer and are eager for more young vampire action, here you go. Melissa De La Cruz's book takes place in New York City and the characters are members of the oldest and richest families of that city. Schuyler is not rich but her family is an old one (they came over on the Mayflower) which gives her standing in the ultra-exclusive school, Duchesne. Strange things are happening to her including blue lines appearing on her skin. She invited to a meeting of The Committee with many of her schoolmates and her suspicions are confirmed. They are all vampires.

"What about the sun? Doesn't it like, kill us?" [Bliss] asked, between bites. The steak melted on her tongue, cold and tart.

"Are you shriveling up and dying right now?" Mimi snickered. "All of us go to Palm Beach every Christmas. Hello!"

Schuyler and her friends become aware of a threat to the Blue Bloods that originates from the beginning of mankind. De La Cruz links vampire mythology to Bible tales to explain the difference between the good vampires (Blue Bloods) and bad (Silver Bloods) originates from Satan and the archangels. This book does not have an ending but leads you directly to its sequel, Masquerade, which I am going to read next.

My rating for this book: ++++

Monday, April 7, 2008

Twisted (2007)

This book by Laurie Halse Anderson reflects the incredible pressure on teens these days. Tyler has a LOT of pressure from all sides: his father (under a lot of pressure at work and taking it out on his family), he's on parole (for vandalism which he only did to get attention from his peers), his sister (attending his school and getting into a relationship with his best friend), Bethany (his old bully's twin sister AND the daughter of his father's boss, who finally notices he exists), classes (his father made him take as many AP classes as allowed including Calculus). When he is wrongly accused of posted compromising pictures of Bethany on the web (after pulling her out of a party and driving her, her brother, and his friends, all passed out drunk, home), it seems he has felt the load of the last straw. He pulls a gun out of his father's drawer, loads it, and puts the muzzle in his mouth. Does he pull the trigger?
My rating for this book: +++

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Step from Heaven (2003)

This is an award winning story of a young girl whose family moves from Korea to the United States when she was 4 years old. Her family suffers a lot of stress because of their financial situation which contributes to her father's alcoholism and abuse of his wife. Regardless, Young Ju attends school and learns everything from scratch like what Crayons are for and how to speak English. By the time she completes ninth grade, she has the best grades of her class. She makes friend with an American girl and truly becomes American from her example (luckily a good one). There are many examples of the particular experiences of immigrant children like helping their parents deal with authority figures. She feels she has to lie to keep her American friends from meeting her Korean family and keeping her Korean family from learning what she is doing with her American friends. I think teens who have immigrant families would relate to this girl and find hope and joy in her success.
My rating for this book: +++

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (2008) & Eye of the Crow (2007)

It really was accidental that I chose two books that had connections with the Sherlock Holmes character by Arthur Conan Doyle but when I finally noticed it, I went ahead and read both anyway. The Curse of the Bizarre Bouquets (by Nancy Springer) features Sherlock's siter, Enola, who is avoiding her brothers and being put in a boarding school. She helps solve the disappearance of Dr. Watson with the clever (of course) observation of a bouquet of flowers delivered to his wife. Eye of the Crow (by Shane Peacock) features Sherlock as a young man and gives the reader a great feeling of London in that era. Sherlock is portrayed as a very bright young man, living in poverty because his mother married a Jewish man. He empathizes with a young Arab man who is accused of murder and endeavors to find the true murderer.

Both of these books are wonderful mysteries. Springer's book is a faster read and might attract more girls but Peacock's book paints a more complete picture of what London was like.

My rating for both books: ++++

Friday, March 7, 2008

Author Blogs

Many people find it fun to read about the daily life of their favorite people. Blogs make it very easy for busy people, like our favorites, to jot down a few words once in a while. Some people are fanatic about keeping up to date and some seem to have forgotten that their blog is still out there. This is a list of a few authors' blogs.

John Green - http://www.sparksflyup.com/weblog.php

Neil Gaiman - http://journal.neilgaiman.com/

Tamora Pierce - http://tammypierce.livejournal.com/

Scott Westerfield - http://scottwesterfeld.com/blog/?p=211

Linda Sue Park - http://lsparkreader.livejournal.com/

Try and Google your favorite author to see if they have a blog. There might be a link on their official website.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


The name of the series contains three letters that might cause this site to be blocked, so I inserted the underscore to prevent this.
That said, there is nothing risque about this series written by 4 women who call themselves CLAMP. Each story has a kind of moral in it. For instance, one deals with the way words bind a person and one deals with the age old problem of getting what you wish for. There are spirits and gates to alternate worlds and lots of fun to be had in this series. My only wish is that drinking wasn't glamorized and that the witch, Yuko, didn't smoke what looked like an opium pipe.
My rating: +++

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


WOW!!!!! There is one scene in this book which almost made me stop reading, it was so disturbing. When a 13 year-old kid is slated to be unwound, it means that he is brought to a harvesting center where he is turned into as many parts as can be transplanted. This is a very scary scenario when you see how easy it is for parents to turn over their kids for any reason - they can't afford to feed them, the kids are getting into trouble, any reason at all.
Connor is a 13-year old boy who has been getting into fights and so his family signs him over to be unwound. On the way to the harvest center, he escapes his transport, causes a major accident on the freeway, and kidnaps a "tithe" out of his car. His escape eventually becomes a legend amoung unwounds. He is rescued by an underground railroad for unwounds and is taken to a sanctuary where he can stay until he is 18 and is no longer desirable for harvesting.
I highly recommend this book if you like action and you aren't too squeamish (there is one extremely unsettling scene which takes place at the harvest farm).
My rating - *****

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Chocolate War

Robert Cormier's book which takes place in a Catholic boys' school, is in the top five of ALA's Most Challenged Books (probably because of the references to masturbation). I started to read this book once and put it down and just read it all the way through for a class. Since I had to analyze themes in this book, it really came home the amount of cruelty and bullying that appeared in this book.

For the first time since I have started this blog, I have to say I can't recommend this book. Our hero, Jerry, is given an "assignment" by the secret society called The Vigils. He has to refuse to sell chocolate bars for a school fund raiser for a set length of time. When the time runs out, he continues to refuse and actually starts to be an object of respect by the student body. The administrator of the school bullies the bullies to turn the students' regard of him back to disdain. In the end, Jerry is standing alone, no adults (not even his father helped) or friends support him. I can appreciate books that leave me with a sense of unease, like I could do something to better the situation, but this book left me with no sense of how things could have been better.

My rating for this book - +

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Links for Twilight

Fans of Twilight are eager to learn who will be cast in the upcoming movie and when will the next book be released. All of these tidbits can be picked up in the author's official website
and the official fan site

You will want to put these sites with your favorite links.


The third book in the series by Stephenie Meyer is just as exciting as the first two. When I was reading this book, I was transported back to when I was a teenager reading a romance book and I relived that giddy feeling gotten from fantasizing that two gorgeous guys were in love with me and protecting me against evil. Wow! In this book, Bella graduates from high school, realizes that her wish to become a vampire to be with Edward will cause incredible grief to her father, and is being hunted by Victoria, the evil vampire. The werewolves and vampires join forces to protect Bella and destroy Victoria and her band of young, out-of-control vampires. Everyone who has read this book is eagerly awaiting the fourth installment.
My rating: ++++

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The White Darkness

Geraldin McCaughrean has written a marvelous adventure which takes place mostly in the frozen wasteland of Antarctica. Symone (Sym) is taken by her uncle to Antarctica to find a legendary hole to the middle of the Earth, a fixation he shared with Sym's father. Her whole life was spent studying books about this continent, survival in extreme cold, and history of the explorers who went to the South Pole. All of this knowledge came in very handy for Sym. I really enjoyed this extreme adventure and I think teens with a taste for travel will enjoy it too.

My rating: +++

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bad Kitty

I haven't read any book that made me laugh out loud as much as this fun little mystery which takes place in Las Vegas. It's Miss Marple turns Valley Girl. "Suspicious? Are candy necklaces yummy?" An unusual feature of this book is an ongoing dialogue between the characters in footnotes. They were about as welcome as people sitting behind you in a movie theater talking nonstop about the plot! Others may find it fun but it was a little distracting for me.

However, Jasmine is a wonderfully bright girl who is able to practice her own brand of detective work like creating a fume hood to bring up fingerprints with Super Glue using a shoe box and a mug warmer.

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun fast read.

My rating for this book: +++