Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat

Title: Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat
Author: Lynne Jonell
Location: J Jonell
Reading Level: juvenile

Guys don't let the title and cover fool you. This book has a boy character, Joe, who plays a big role also. It's the class rat that brings Emmy and Joe together to try and figure out just what is going on at the strange shop Emmy sees her nanny go into and why Emmy's nanny, Miss Barmy, has someone bring a chinchilla to step in the dough for the cookies she makes for Emmy's parents. How does a rat bring people together? Well this rat talks! Emmy thought she was the only one who could hear him until the day she hears Joe talking back to the rat.

Bottom Line: This was an enjoyable and relatively fast read. Good characters, with a nanny who seems sinister, but isn't too scary. You wouldn't want her in your house, but probably wouldn't run from her if you saw her in the street either. Everything comes together in the end. However, for those really paying attention, there is a hint about a possible second Emmy book in the future and I can't wait to read it!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Samuel Blink and the Forbidden Forest

Title: Samuel Blink and the Forbidden Forest
Author: Matt Haig
Location: J Haig
Reading Level: juvenile

Twelve year old Samuel and his sister Martha, who no longer speaks, are sent to live with an aunt they don't even remember, in a foreign country. It's all because of a freak accident involving his parents. Seems his uncle also had a bit of an accident. He went into the Forbidden Forest and never returned! Aunt Edna has been waiting for years for his return, but so far all that has come out of the forest is an elkhound, Ibsen. Of course the aunt forbids them to go in or even near the forest, but you know what happens when someone tells you to absolutely not do something. That's right, one of them runs into the forest! Find out why it is called the Forbidden Forest, who lives there, who ran in, and if anything can ever be normal again.

Bottom Line: A read for fantasy fans. I liked it. Trolls, witches,and other such creatures are key characters. The bad guy bites the dust and good prevails.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Frozen Fire

Title: Frozen Fire
Author: Tim Bowler
Location: YA Bowler
Reading Level: Young Adult

Late on New Year’s Eve 15-year old, Dusty receives a call from a strange boy. He claims he is dying, but he seems to know things about her brother, who disappeared two years ago. Desperate to hear news of her brother and his fate, Dusty goes out to look for the mysterious boy. However, other people are searching for the boy as well and their motives have more to do with revenge than intrigue.
Frozen Fire is a powerful psychological thriller. Just as Dusty feels cold and isolated from her life since the disappearance of her brother, so too does the reader when immersed in this wintery English landscape with possible enemies around every snow covered bend. Considering Bowler dumps the reader in Dusty’s life in the middle of a crisis, instead of at the beginning, he is very effective at immediately convincing the reader to care about this girl. The mystery surrounding the boy that eventually envelopes Dusty’s small town drives the plot forward. Dusty is unsure of whether to treat him as dangerous, like the rest of her town, or trust him as the only one who might be able to lead her to her brother.

The Bottom Line: I enjoyed this book but I would not recommend it to everyone. One major plot line in the book is tied up neatly, but the other is left open which may frustrate many readers. Teens who love a good supernatural mystery, should like this book but, due to the ending, it lacks broad teen appeal.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Title: Busted
Author: Phil Bildner
Location: YA Bildner
Reading Level: Young Adult

Busted started out with a lot of promise. It consists of four intertwining short stories about high school students getting into trouble for various things. Drinking, sex and bullying are just a few of the things these teens get busted for. The writing was frank and did not sugarcoat the lives of today's teens, but Bildner relies on stereotypical characters (the cheerleader, the jock, etc.) all too often. What bothered me most is the way Bildner's characters spoke. It was very obvious that he was trying too hard to sound like a teen and it comes off as forced and artificial. Several of the characters' conversations made me cringe - no one ever talks like this!

Bottom Line: Busted is a great escape and the material is refreshingly honest and relevant. The dialogue and oversimplification of characters make it hard to fully identify and emphathize with the story. This made what would be a very fun novel a mediocre one.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Skin I'm In

Title: The Skin I'm In
Author: Sharon Flake
Location: YA Flake
Reading Level: Young Adult

The Skin I'm In is the story of Maleeka Madison, a thirteen-year-old girl feeling alone in the world. She has a very dark complexion, which makes her the target of much ridicule, even from the other African-American students with lighter skin. Everyday, they make comments about her and after a while it really starts to wear her down. When a teacher with a rare skin condition and a confident attitude joins the school, Maleeka sees her own struggles reflected and tries to learn to accept herself.

Bottom Line: Even if you don't like to read much, this book will appeal to anyone who has ever been subjected to bullying in school for any reason. Almost anybody will be able to identify with Maleeka and her struggles.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Title: The Tales of Beedle the Bard
Author: J.K. Rowling
Location: J Rowling
Reading Level: Juvenile

The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a collection of five tales from the world of Harry Potter, that are comparable to the muggle fairy tales by the Grimm brothers. The book begins with an introduction from J.K. Rowling explaining the origins of the stories and each one concludes with commentary from Professor Dumbledore.

I will not make this review even longer by discussing each individual tale, they all have a good moral and the commentary by Dumbledore is in most cases extremely funny (at one point I laughed out loud). My favorite tale was Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump, I always love it when a smart woman saves the day and makes the guys look foolish!
The only warning I will give is that a few of the tales have some darker elements. In particular, The Warlock’s Hairy Heart is one that some parents may want to skip if reading to young children.

The Bottom Line: This is a great supplement to the Harry Potter canon. The tales are funny, uplifting and sometimes a little sad. In my opinion, Dumbledore’s commentary is one of the biggest reasons to buy this book. Read it, and enjoy getting another little glimpse of Dumbledore and the world of Harry Potter.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Go Ask Malice: A Slayer's Diary

Title: Go Ask Malice: A Slayer's Diary
Author: Robert Joseph Levy
Location: YA Buffy Malice
Reading Level: Young Adult

Needing a vampire fix after finishing the Twilight series, I turned to the vampire staple that is the Buffy universe. "Go Ask Malice" tracks the life and upbringing of Faith, a vampire slayer who's past the reader finds is both surreal and realistic with friends who have visions, visits to the therapist's office, and juvenile pranks. The story is told through journal entries Faith must write for her therapist and social worker. Faith is an abused and neglected child who grows up in foster care, on the street, and doesn't ever seem to get a break....until she is called to be a slayer.

Bottom Line: This is a quick read, and also one that you want to be over quickly. It is blunt, to-the-point, and a little disturbing. There is no softening the blow with sub-plots, it is what it is.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Untamed by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Title: Untamed: A House of Night Novel
Author: P.C. and Kristin Cast
Location: YA Cast
Reading Level: Young Adult

This 4th House of Night novel begins just minutes after Chosen left off, Zoey’s friends are ticked at her and her best friend is a possibly evil, undead dead vampire. Things begin to get much worse once Zoey’s figures out Neferet’s secret weapon in her malicious war on humans. Zoey must reunite with her friends and gain new allies if she hopes to counter the rising evil in this intense, exciting installment from P.C. and Kristin Cast.
The writing is not stellar in this series, but fans read it for the exhilarating storyline and appealing characters. Zoey’s confidence continues to grow as she embraces her role as a leader. All of her awesome friends return in this book as well as some new intriguing characters. Fans will particularly appreciate the climactic ending, but they might have to re-read it to absorb it all.

The Bottom Line: Fans will love this book! I loved this book! It is by far, the best yet in the House of Night series. New fans will want to start with the first book, Marked, before sinking their teeth into this one.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The God Box by Alex Sanchez

Title: The God Box
Author: Alex Sanchez
Location: YA Sanchez
Reading Level: Young Adult

Paul is not gay! He prays every night for God to take away the attraction he feels for guys and transfer it to his long-time girlfriend Angie. So far, Paul has done a pretty good job keeping his feelings in check, but then he meets Manuel. When openly gay Manuel comes on the scene, he challenges everything in which Paul and his conservative high school believe. Will Paul decide to suppress his feelings for Manuel and live the Christian lifestyle? Or can he choose to be both gay and Christian?
Alex Sanchez has written a thought-provoking story that demonstrates the struggles of gay religious teens. Paul is a likable character and the reader will cheer for him to find peace with his issues and learn to love himself. I think this is a wonderful book for all teens, but particularly for gay and straight religious teens who would find Sanchez’s reconciliation of sexual identity and religiosity encouraging.

The Bottom Line: I loved this book. It was a quick read with relatable characters. It presents well researched, intriguing arguments against the Christian position on homosexuality.