Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez

The Pregnancy Project
Gaby's mother was a teen when she had her first child. Gaby was the eighth and last of her children and watched as her mother struggled to support and provide for them without the help of a father. As she watched her sisters and brothers become teen parents, she resolved to not let a pregnancy come between her and her goals. She could not help but watch how friends, family, and society as a whole regard and treat teen parents and she came up with an idea for her senior project.

She shared her plan with only her mother, one sister, her boyfriend, best friend, principal, and assistant superintendent. She was an honors student and would record how everyone saw and treated her when she revealed to them she was pregnant. That's right. She faked a pregnancy. Her co-conspirators would relate to her all they heard and for a few months she experienced how a pregnant teen was treated. Her goal was to show people how their attitudes and comments tore down a teen's self-esteem and how it was impossible to recover from this. 

I highly recommend this book to students to show how they can make a difference and maybe help someone who needs a shoulder to lean on.

My rating for this book:

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover
the Secrets of the Universe
Aristotle (Ari) and Dante meet at a public pool one summer and find they share so much. They are both third generation Mexican-American with college educated parents. They are also learning about their sexuality like so many young people their age. Neither of these journeys is easy but they both have so much to learn.

What is undeniable is the value of one close friend and these two show how important it is to be there when things go wrong. This is where friendship really counts. 

I highly recommend this book as an example of fine character development. We come to really like these two young men and hope that they will be happy.

My rating for this book:

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
This was definitely a cool book! It takes the reader from a little bookstore in San Francisco to the Google campus in Palo Alto to a subterranean library in New York City to a knitting museum and a conservatory of artifacts. 

Clay Jannon had a job designing a web site for a bagel company but unfortunately it folded and now he has to look for a job. One day as he was walking around San Francisco he sees a sign offering a job in the window of a really small bookstore. He walks in and finds that what the bookstore lacks in floor space makes up for it in wall space. Shelves full of books go up for three stories and are accessed by ladders on wheels. However, he has to agree to some very strange rules before he can have the job. He agrees to the conditions and gets the shift that runs from 10 pm to 6 am. Not surprisingly, there are not so many customers that come into the store, just a few who exchange one book for another. Clay records these visits in a log that is the newest in a set that dates back for decades. Curiosity overcomes Clay who feels that there is much more to this store than meets the eye.

I highly recommend this book to readers who love mysteries, adventure, and, of course, books!

My rating for this book:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andres

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Greg is not very attractive. He is trying to get through high school with a minimum of attention by trying to touch base with kids in all of the various typical high school cliques. Earl is also an outsider. His father is not in the picture, his mother is an alcoholic who is addicted to the Internet, and his brothers have violent tendencies. So it is logical that they should share a hobby of creating movies.

They watch classic films and try to emulate the style of the directors. One day Greg's mother asks him to visit a girl he knew in middle school who had just been diagnosed with leukemia. Rachel's mother hopes that Greg might be able to lift her spirits.

This book may be one of the most realistic depictions of high school boys. The obscenities and potty humor are non-stop. But the reader admires Greg for his attempts at cheering up Rachel and sticking with her. Even Earl becomes invested in making life more bearable. Unfortunately, Greg's schoolwork follows a downward spiral along with Rachel's health and at some point he needs to pick himself up and face his own life.

I recommend this book to readers who have a creative hobby like film making. 

My rating for this book:

An Infidel in Paradise by S.J. Laidlaw

An Infidel in Paradise
Talking about  grouchy people, Emma has all the reasons in the world to be grouchy. Her mother is a Canadian diplomat and they frequently move but when Emma's father takes up with a Phillipino woman in Manila, her mother takes her older brother, younger sister, and her to a new posting in Islamabad, Pakistan. So not only did she have to leave her friends and move to a much more restrictive culture, but now she has to make new friends and try to get along without a father.

Luckily, the students at her international school are used to kids coming and going and instantly welcome her. Included in these is a drop-dead gorgeous, wealthy Pakistani boy named Mustapha who is in an marriage arrangement with a beautiful girl named Aisha. She has to learn to navigate the treacherous waters of her new home. In addition to new restrictions on her freedom, she has moved to an area of the world with dangerous riots and bombings. As a North American, she is very vulnerable and conspicuous. 

Stupidly and selfishly, Emma leaves her little sister alone one night to attend a party at Mustapha's house. When rioting breaks out Emma risks her life to get back home to her sister. She learns a valuable lesson in family and following rules.

This book is interesting because of the family life as well as the location of the story. Definitely different. 

My rating for this book:

Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright

Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy
Sometimes I get really tired reading about self-absorbed, grouchy people, which is why this book is such a breath of fresh air!

As long as he can remember Carlos has wanted to be a makeup artist. He  studies magazines like Vogue and practices on his sister and his friends. He persuades one of his friends who works at Macy's to find out what he needs to do to apply for a job at one of the makeup counters. He enlists the help of Gleason Kraft (a secret crush) who is in a photography class to put together his portfolio. The results are so successful that Gleason is invited to show his photos in a gallery and Carlos gets a job at the FeatureFace cosmetics counter. All is good, right? Sorry. That would make for a boring story.

Carlos's sister has an abusive boyfriend and Carlos has incurred the wrath of the counter's supervisor so all is not perfect in his world. And will he ever be able to share his feelings with Gleason? His optimism and confidence make him an unstoppable force and a likable character. We sincerely root for him to help his family and succeed at his dream. 

My rating for this book:

The Night She Disappeared by April Henry

The Night She Disappeared
How can a mystery with no mystery still be suspenseful? This book is about a girl who is kidnapped and how her coworkers ignore the police who believe she is dead and work on finding her. 

Gabie works in a pizza parlor with Kayla and Drew. She is the less attractive of the two girls but has the attraction of a serial murderer. They trade nights when the kidnapper intends to snatch Gabie but he goes ahead and takes Kayla. The story is told from different points of view, including the kidnapper's, so the reader is aware that Kayla is still alive and Gabie is still in danger. Will Gabie and Drew manage to save Kayla? 

Thrillers like this are rare in the Young Adult section of the bookstore and abundant in the Adult section. It is a great introduction to a fun type of book.

My rating for this book:

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

This is an amazing book with different varieties of dragons and humans, and half-breeds. Seraphina is secretly half-human and half-dragon. She inherited a fantastic talent for music and is the assistant to the court composer. She becomes involved in preventing a war between dragons and humans and has to do it without exposing herself.

The fun of reading a fantasy like this one is the world building. The author creates an entire world with dress, food, rituals, etc. The  trick is to introduce these new things to the reader without the reader feeling like he is getting a civics lesson. I, unfortunately, read this in a place where I was constantly interrupted. It deserves to be read without distractions so the reader is totally immersed in the place and can enjoy the new and unusual surroundings. Give yourself a quiet place with a bowl of snacks, turn off the phone and other disruptions and you will be rewarded!

My rating for this book:

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg

Prom & Prejudice
As one can guess, this is a retelling of Austen's story about a young woman trying to navigate a world full of wealthy pampered people. Lizzie Bennet is one of two scholarship students at the prestigious boarding school, Longbourn Academy, not far from Pemberly where the equally privileged boys attend. Everyone at Longbourn is focused on one thing - prom. What they will wear and who they will go with. Lizzie, however, needs to focus on her talent at the piano, the reason she can attend.

But of course, there is Will Darcy, the serious and seriously handsome boy who rubs Lizzie the wrong way from the beginning. Will she be able to set aside her prejudice against the trust fund kids?

This story follows Pride and Prejudice very closely so there are no surprises. It's a fun and fast read so, go ahead and indulge yourself.

My rating for this book: 

The Diviners by Libba Bray, read by January LaVoy

The Diviners by Libba Bray
It is the 1920s, a vibrant, exciting time in New York City and Evie O'Neill has been sent here to stay with her uncle, owner of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition and the Occult, nicknamed the Museum of Creepy Crawlies. Evie has a friend named Mabel whose parents are activists and meets another young woman named Theta who is a dancer in the Ziegfield Follies. Evie discovers she has an ability to see things about the owner when she holds an item and this comes handy (and dangerous) when she becomes involved in the investigation of a series of gruesome murders. Naughty John is following a ritual in order to call forth an evil entity when Solomon's Comet appears.

Evie is not the only diviner, however, and we also meet Memphis, a young black man, and his brother, Isaiah. Memphis was a healer and he is trying to protect his brother who has a talent with numbers. Another interesting character is Jericho, Uncle Will's assistant in the museum, who has a mysterious past.

I listened to this book on a Playaway, a handy little gadget that holds just one book. One AAA battery and ear buds and you're ready to go. The reader of the story had a wonderful range of accents for the different characters and really added to the enjoyment of the book. I highly recommend this book to readers of historical fiction and horror. 

My rating for this book: 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Boy 21 by Matthew Quick

Boy 21
Finley is, in many ways, a kind of Harry Potter. He lives in rather miserable conditions (his father works nights taking money in a tollbooth, his grandfather needs help because he has no legs and is still mourning the loss of his wife with the help of the bottle) in a miserable little town and all he can do is dream of leaving it and finding a better life. The difference with Harry is he does have a family who loves him and a girl friend that shares his love of basketball. He and Erin even train together during the summer to prepare for the season. Shortly before their senior year, Coach approaches Finley with a big request. A new boy is coming to the school from Los Angeles where he was a basketball star. Russ, who calls himself Boy 21, lost both of his parents and has suffered a break with reality. He believes that his parents are in outer space and will come soon to pick him up. Finley can understand this, since he pretty much stopped speaking after his own mother died (under mysterious circumstances). The bad news is that Russ plays the same position as Finley and even has the same number: 21.

Russ seems to be happy enough following Finley and Erin around, watching them train and practice, and seems to be comfortable with Finley's silence, even welcoming it. Coach has made sure the two boys have the same schedule when school starts so that they are always together and Finley is hurt that Coach makes him help a boy that ultimately will probably take his place on the court. But Russ doesn't show his abilities and seems to be holding back to let Finley keep his place. But something happens that shakes Finley so that he can't perform and he gratefully and gracefully lets Russ strut his stuff.

This was an interesting story. Even though I frequently suspend belief in many stories, I had a small problem believing that a senior basketball player was caught reading a covered copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone telling everyone it was a book by Ralph Ellison called Invisible Man. That one little scene felt a little forced to me but I had to smile.

Will Finley get his ticket out of town to Hogwart's? 

My rating for this book:      

The Heist Society by Ally Carter

The Heist Society
This book is a pleasant little surprise. It is full of jet setting teens with either uber-rich families or art thieving families. What a breath of fresh air!

Katarina Bishop has learned running cons from her family and cons her way into a prestigious boarding school to escape that life. However, she gets kicked out (set up by her 'friend') and she returns to her life to save her father from the mobster, Arturo Taccone. Some pieces of art were stolen from his fortress of a house and he is convinced that Kat's father is the only one who could have done it. If she doesn't return the pieces to their owner, terrible things will happen to her father. Kat does what she has to do.

Which is to call together a group of people which includes her rich buddy, Hale, and others to figure out who did steal them, where are they being stored, and how can they get them back. Question 1 is still a mystery, question 2 is the Henley, an art museum in Paris, and question 3 has to be done in 14 days...or else.

This charming adventure is carried out and Kat even learns that Taccone isn't the rightful owner - the pieces were stolen from their owners by the Nazis and never returned. So this begs the question, should she return them to Taccone?

I highly recommend this intelligent action-filled story.

My rating for this book: