Friday, August 5, 2011

"Killing Mr. Griffin" by Lois Duncan

256 pages

Mr. Griffin is tough on his high school English students. He won't accept late assignments and he never gives As, so group of students decide to get revenge. They're a motley crew: Mark, who originally has the idea, is cold and cunning; David is sweet but insecure; Jeff is outgoing; Betsy will do anything to be popular. Susan is the real misfit, as she is quiet, mousy, and shy and doesn't hang out with the rest of the kids, who are the "in crowd." But she's got a big crush on David, so it's not too hard for him to talk her into helping them with their plot to get back at Mr. Griffin. All they're going to do is kidnap him, take him out in the woods, make them think that they're going to kill him, and make him beg for his life. They aren't really going to hurt him. But of course things go terribly wrong, and the kids end up with a dead body on their hands. No one can agree about what do to--and it soon becomes clear that one member of the group will stop at nothing to keep from getting caught.

I enjoyed the idea of this book and the message behind it, but I didn't really have that much fun reading it. The plot is pretty predictable and the characters fall flat to me, for the most part (with the exception of David's Gram). Also, the specific book that I read was an updated version, which confused me at first because I knew that the book was published in the late 1970s but they were talking about iPods, Google, and DVDs. Even after I realized that the book had been updated, it still seemed odd because other details were old-fashioned (the kids' names, the dialogue, etc). I don't see why they felt the need to update a book like that. It's like they think that kids these days can't concentrate on a book that doesn't have tons of computers, phones, and fancy stuff. That's probably true in some cases, but that doesn't mean we should go around changing all the older books. Okay, I'll get off my I said, this book isn't my favorite but it has some redeeming qualities.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I Wore the Ocean In the Shape of a Girl

As you might expect from the title, this memoir reads like a long, lyrical, beautiful poem.  In fact the author has written three poetry collections and was included in Best American Poetry 2010. I loved the book but it was almost like watching a horror movie with my hands covering my face part of the time.  Some scenes are just too hard to watch straight on.  I have always been drawn to books about people who grew up in adversity and this one doesn't disappoint but it's so raw at times it's difficult to read.  Still, it honors a woman's life and her attempts to move on from a teen pregnancy, alcoholism, and near deadly self-loathing in a rare and beautiful way.
220 pp
Kim F

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Star Maker by Laurence Yep


About the Book: Artie is the youngest and smallest cousin, which means he is always getting picked on. At one family gathering Artie can't take the bullying from his cousin Petey, so he bragged that he would get everyone firecrackers at the Chinese New Year's celebration. Now Artie has to come up with the money, but he knows he can count of his Uncle Chester to help him out. That is until Uncle Chester has a string of bad luck.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: The Star Maker is a short, simple book that would be great for a classroom read alound for young tweens. The setting is very vivid and the descriptions of San Francisco and Chinatown come to life in the story. I really enjoyed the authors notes at the end about traditional Chinese New Year's celebrations and I think this would make a great read for students learning about Chinese New Year.

The story itself is a bit simple and the characters could have been developed more. I liked the relationship between Artie and Uncle Chester and it was nice to see a positive adult in Artie's life who was helping him with his cousins and encouraging him. Since Uncle Chester was the youngest of his generation, he understood Artie and watched out for him.

The book is short-just 100 pages, so it could be read quickly. I think it would also be a great early chapter book for younger readers who are moving up into chapter books. A nice story of tradition and family.


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By: Alex Flinn, 304 pp.

A very wonderful read! I enjoy how Flinn has put a fairy tale into modern day form and still has a great twist to it. I cannot wait to see the movie now.

Kyle is a very mean kid who treats everyone ugly! He calls them ugly and says that the "ugly" do not deserve to be treated any other way.

Then a witch places a curse on him where he becomes a beast - one he must break within two years. His father (who believes that Kyle is hideous as well) hides him out in the country so no one has to know that he is his son.

Then Kyle decides to change his name because "Kyle" means "handsome." He changes it to Adrian which means "the dark one." Slowly, but very noticeably, Adrian (Kyle) changes his ways. He is becoming kinder, more thoughtful, and everyone seems pretty or good looking instead of everyone seeming "ugly" to him. This curse set upon him has definitely worked!

Then Lindy comes into his life and changes him even more. He becomes in love with her and not himself any more.

I get to watch the movie tomorrow, August 3rd! I hope you all get to read this "fairy tale" before watching the movie just as I have done to truly enjoy it!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Look me in the eye

John Elder Robison
pages 282

Sub-titled "my life with Asperger's" this memoir is an insightful look into the world of Autism, specifically the spectrum known as Asperger's Syndrome. Robison, whose younger brother is writer Augusten Burroughs of "Running With Scissors" fame was not diagnosed until he was well into adulthood. Reading how his life was shaped by the unique perspective of Asperger's is fascinating. Socially stunted and an over-logical sense of thinking, John Elder lived a childhood labeled weird, retarded and at times psychotic. Living in a home of highly intelligent, yet dysfunctional parents created an isolation that left him on his own to try to learn how to cope in a world that does not even today understand the nuances of Asperger's much less how to best deal with those affected by it. Writing these memories is a cathartic experience for the author, yet because of his Asperger's he is also able to detach from it and objectively examine it. If you know anyone who deals with Autism on a personal level I would highly recommend this book because it is such an uplifting and demystifying experience. Wonderfully written, it would be an entertaining and
informative read for anyone. Loved it! It get's top rating.
Rock, Chalk, Jay, Hawk

Tricky Business

by Dave Barry
pages 320

If you enjoy the humorous musing of columnists Dave Barry you will love this Fictional offering of madness and mayhem in sunny Florida. This is a tale of drug smuggling and a cast of character that include a decaying garage band relegated to playing in D-list venues, mobsters that are as stupid as they are greedy, a couple of crusty old senior citizens that escape their retirement home and a promotional mollusk named "Conrad the Conch" This book was one of the quickest and laugh-out-loud funny books I have read all summer. It will get a Rock Chalk Jay on it's absurdity alone.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pinocchio Vampire Slayer and the Great Puppet Theater (vol. 2) by Dusty Higgins & Van Jensen

"Come now, puppet, let's settle this."

Volume two opens with the realization that Master Cherry is dead and has become one of the vampires. However, he protects Pinocchio and an uneasy alliance with Cherry is formed as the gang from the Great Puppet Theater join the group to help. Only problem is Pinocchio is so full of hurt, loss and rage that he is one vampire stake away from exploding. When he finally does Cherry is truly dead and Fairy gave her life to cast her final spell-making Pinocchio human. How is he going to fight the vampires now?

I'm tired of vampires. There I said it. Whew. But, this series is such a quirky mixture of fairy tale mixed with evil vampires with a good dose of sarcastic wit and humor. I started reading because the premise made me laugh. I keep reading because the characters are engaging and sympathetic; the story sweet and the drawings are creatively full of life. 2010, 176 pages.

Black Belt Librarians: Every Librarian's Real World Guide to a Safer Workplace by Warren Davis Graham, Jr.

I've read Graham's books before and we've even had him talk at our staff development day, but I've never reviewed them and it was time to refresh my memory. Graham worked security but did not know libraries until he talked with the director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Library in North Carolina. What happens next is my favorite thing to watch-the initiation of the unknowing to the knowing about public libraries and what we all deal with on a daily basis.

A small practical book, Graham shares his knowledge about handling different situations and feeling empowered to deal with the public. It's easy going tone laced with humor will set many readers at ease-even those who are not at all certain they have what it takes to play security guard librarian. 55 pages, 2006.

She Loves You, She Loves You Not by Julie Anne Peters

Alyssa has always been pretty confident in who she is, even if she hid that from her family. What mattered most was that she had Sarah and nothing could come between them. So when Alyssa's father discovers she's a lesbian  in the worst possible way (in flagrante delicto) she is stunned to find herself disowned and living across the country with a mother she barely knows. Oh, and Sarah refuses to talk to her.

This is a strong coming of age story that doesn't stick with the typical teen plot line. Instead it dives into the real and often conflicting and sometimes just crazy feelings of being a teen. Alyssa is obsessed with Sarah and is just starting to recognize that behavior in herself. The plot is moderate and her growth is steady throughout the book. In a young adult market full of angst and dark topics, Peters seems to have a knack for ferreting out the topics others don't touch. 2011, 288 pages.

Vacations Over! Return of the Dinosaurs by Joe Kulka


Kids love dinosaurs and the premise for this book is prety silly with some humor for adults thrown in. The text rhymes making this a great read aloud and the illustrations are bright and colorful. I thought it was cute until poor T-Rex comes home and finds his Fluffy Foo Foo turned into a rock complete with a picture of skeleton Fluffy near a water bowl looking like he wanted water and food but T-Rex abandoned him. I HATED that page! Why did the author have the throw in a dead dog?? Maybe I'm overly sensitive though. I read it my husband and he thought it was hilarious and I read it to a group of kids and they loved it. So I guess I'm the only one who can't handle dead dogs!

Beauty and the Squat Bears by Émile Bravo


This is a fairy tale mash up comic book and my favorite picture book I read in July. The story had me laughing and since I love fractured fairy tales, this was one had al sorts of mash ups I liked. We met random princes with curses and sleeping beauties, squat bears, evil queens, and Snow White. The stories all mix together and turn out in a way we would never expect. A funny comic book that will be sure to make you laugh.

A Donkey Reads by Muriel Mandell


I liked this book mostly because of the smart-alec main character who claims he can teach a donkey to read. There's lots of humor and I think readers who enjoy folktales will like this one. I would have liked a bit more at the ending as it wrapped up a bit too quickly, but other than that it was pretty funny!

Abandoned Lighthouse by Albert Lamb


I liked this book, mostly for the illustrations, but it wasn't anything super standout amazing to me. The story has a bittersweet feel to it because I didn't want anything bad to happen to the characters and they get swept off in a boat and then into an abandoned lighthouse. It's been a few days since I read it and I can't remember much about it so it wasn't super memorable either.

The Great Eggscape by Susan Glass illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright


If you're looking for a book with a lot of fun, clever wordplay, check this one out. Older picture book readers will get the jokes and word play as the eggs go bad and try to break out of the fridge. A funny crime spoof with cartoon/comic style illustrations.

Hopper and Wilson by Maria van Lieshout


A nice story about friendship, although it has a few sad moments (but don't worry-it all turns out OK!) The ilustrations are simple and add a very sweet, laid back feel to the book.

Manners Mash Up by various illustrators


I loved this book! A group of children's book illustrators all together in one book to share their tips of manners. Each page is different and it's fun to pour over the pages looking at everyone's style. Highly recommended!

Ant and Grasshopper by Luli Gray, illustrated by Giuliano Ferri


A re-telling of the Aesop tale of the Ant and the Grasshopper. The illustrations are bright and colorful and the story is sweet and charming. A nice tale of friendship. I would suggest this for older picture book readers as there is a lot of text, so young readers might not sit still for the whole book.

Ninja Cowboy Bear Presents The Way of the Ninja byDavid Bruins, illustrated by Hilary Leung


A cowboy, ninja and bear all in one book? I'm sold! Ninja, Cowboy and Bear are all friends, but each have different interests. Ninja tries to convince his friends that his games are the best and most fun, but Bear and Cowboy don't always it that way. A fun story about friendship that features a unique cast of characters. I hope this is the start to more books featuring these three!

My Side of the Car by Kate Feiffer, illustrated by Jules Feiffer


I liked Betsy Bird's review of this book best when she said "reality is subjective." This picture book captures that idea perfectly. Sadie really wants to go to the zoo and nothing will stop her, not even a rainstorm. In fact, she's convinced it's not raining on her side of the car, only her fathers, and that the trip to the zoo will happen no matter what. While Sadie's father explains what's going on his side, Sadie always has a counter offer. The author captures a young child's world when what they belive what is happening doesn't match with what their parents believe and how frustrating it can be. A unique book with fun illustrations that I'm sure will have kids and parents laughing together.

Little Pig Joins the Band by David Hyde Costello


Little Pig feels left out when every other member of his family joins a band with Grandfather's old band instruments. The illustrations are simple but fun and kids will relate to Little Pig who feels alone and not big enough to participate. Little Pig finds his place in the band and readers will be cheering him along. A cute picture book about fitting in.

King & King by Linda de Haan & Stern Nijland


For me this book proves that as much as I love picture books, there are some illustration styles that I just won't get. King & King has a cute enough story but I couldn't get over the illustrations. Torn paper made the pages look gritty and gross and the pictures were just ugly. Once I got to the page of the Queen spitting random stuff out of her mouth, I knew I wasn't a fan of the illustrations. The art was abstract and odd and distracted me from the rest of the book. Not my favorite book.

Look! A Book! by Bob Staake


Seek ands finds are always popular with all ages, and Look! A Book! presents a fun, quirky seek and find that toddler and up will enjoy. The die-cuts reveal rhyming items and then we open to a large two page scene with all sorts of items to look for. The pictures are fun and silly with all sorts of crazy things to find. The illustrations remind a bit of the board game Pictureka. When you think you're all done, the author encourages readers to go back and find even more things on the pages. Kids will pour over this one and this is going on my "books I'll buy for kids" list.

The Woods by Paul Hoppe


I am so using this book in storytime!! As a boy travels in the woods, he comes across all sorts of things. But he doesn't have to be afraid! The story is simple and perfect and the illustrations are eye-catching. I think this would be a great read aloud and I can't wait to use it!

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol


About the Book: After falling down a well, Anya discovers bones and a ghost to go along with them. Emily was murdered ninety years ago. When Anya is freed from the well, she discovers an unexpected souvenir.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This is a wonderful graphic novel! Anya is dealing with a lot in high school. She immigrated to America from Russia when she was young and worked hard to blend in and become American. She's embarrassed by her family. She is often a loner and has one friend at school, and her mother is always telling her to befriend another boy from Russia at school, only he's the nerdy kid. She has a crush on popular basketball player Sean. So when a ghost shows up and offers to help Anya out, she discovers that a ghostly friend might not be such a bad idea. She can overhear conversations, have Emily float around the room to look for test answers-it seems like a great deal.

It's through her experiences with Emily that Anya is able to learn who she really is. She discovers her own identity.

The artwork is subtle and light on coloring-it has a two-tone color effect that works very well with the story. The art adds emotion to the story and I liked watching how Emily's look changed as we got to know her true personality more.

My only complaint is the ending-it wrapped up a bit too quickly for me and I wanted just a bit more. But it's still a wonderful graphic novel and I highly recommend it!

Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John


About the Book: Piper has just taken on a challenge-get the band Dumb a paying gig in the next month and she can be their manager. Piper doesn't know much about rock music let alone how get the five members of Dumb to actually play together as a band, especially when Piper herself is deaf.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I loved this book! I've had this one on my desk forever and I should have read it when I first got it. Why did I keep putting it off??

Piper is a fun character you can't help but root for. Her growth from shy girl who hides into a strong, kick-butt girl who can take on a band and the rock music world is so much fun to read. It's a journey you want to go on with Piper and cheer her on the entire way.

The cast of characters is eccentric and varied. There are lots of layers to the story in addition to Piper. There's Piper's relationship with her parents-Piper struggles to get along with her father who recently lost his job and never learned to sign, so Piper feels rejected and not good enough. She has a baby sister who is also deaf, but her parents have raided her college fund to pay her implants for her sister so she can have a chance at hearing, leaving Piper feeling left out. Piper and the band are also embarking on a journey to learn about rock music and the importance of music.

There's a bit of romance mixed in with some humor which makes this book have nice mix. While some of bands exploits and experiences are a bit unrealistic, it's fun to dream!

Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis Gill


Black Hole Sun is an action packed science fiction adventure. I like science fiction, but it's not always the easiest genre for me to follow because of all the science and technology jargon. This one was no exception. There's a lot of futuristic language and technology that the author never explains, he just throws it into the story and lets the reader figure out what it means. This was a bit jarring to read since it took me awhile to really get the setting. I also had some trouble following the action scenes that took place in places on Mars that I couldn't quite picture-but that could just be me and I'm sure readers who read science fiction more regularly wouldn't have that problem.

The characters are fun though and I liked the snarkiness of Durango, Vienne and Durango's AI, Mimi-the banter between them kept me reading.

But overall, I felt there was too much going on and the plot was jumpy. There were lots of things introduced and never resolved (this is book #1 in a series, of course). It was fun and engaging, but a bit sloppy at times which made it hard to keep up with.

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney


About the Book: When Alex wakes up in the bed of a stranger and no memory of the night before, she knows something is wrong. As the night comes back to her, she realizes she was date raped. Her elite private school who believes the students are perfect won't help, so Alex goes to the secret group the Mockingbirds for justice.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This book is a contemporary book about an important topic. The book approaches the topic of date rape delicately and I think readers will connect with Alex. I liked the use of classical music to help tell Alex's story-I thought it added an interesting layer and I'm a music nerd, so I liked that Alex was musical herself. I did think the Mockingbirds are a bit too perfect and I think the way they get what they want was a bit too easy and perfect. I just didn't really get why they would be so respected, especially since they couldn't really enforce the punishments since they were student run and the administration didn't know about them. I also liked that while Alex went to the Mockingbirds and was afraid of telling the school, at least she found a good mentor and adult figure in her piano teacher. I hate when the adults are always the bad guys, so it was nice to have an understanding adult.

Six Rules of Maybe by Deb Caletti


I think the biggest reason I wasn't a fan of this book was that I listened to it on audio. The narrator was pretty terrible. She had the worst range of voices I've ever heard from an audiobook narrator-her male voices sounded all the same and like a girl trying to sound like a boy just by talking lower, which made all the male characters sound dumb. She ran out of various female voices, so the main characters friends all sounded airy and flighty and valley girl-ish which I didn't think fit them at all. The only reason I kept listening was because I had to have this one read for Gateway committee.

The story itself was good, although I really hated the Scarlett liking her brother-in-law plotline. I never really understand why she was attracted to Hayden. It was more like he showed up and she was enamored-no real reason to be. The stories with the neighbors added a nice mix to the story, but the book was mostly ruined for me with the Hayden/Scarlett storyline-I could have done without it since I thought it was boring and not well done. I wish the focus had just been on Scarlett and the rules of maybe.

Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly


About the Book: Drea loves music and spends her time mixing. She's moved from place to place with her mom who can't seem to hold any job or boyfriend for long so Drea doesn't have many friends. Add in her diagnosis of ADHD and "a touch of Asperger's" and Drea's been told she has some issues.

Now she and her mother have moved in with her grandmother. Drea meets neighbor Naomi and new boy Justin, and both seem to actually like Drea and want to spend time with her, issues and all.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I really, really liked this book. I was surprised by how engaged I was in this story and how much I enjoyed it. Drea was a wonderfully engaging, interesting character. I never felt that Drea was a caricature of a character with her diagnosis, but instead felt very real.

Naomi is the most "out there" character of them all, but she's a troubled girl and I understood why she was the way she was. I never felt the author got preachy with Naomi's issues and story and the story never got messagy where it could have at the end.

Ultimatly, this is a story about a girl finding her way and understanding and finding herself. I was pleasantly surprised by it and I recommend it to readers of contemporary YA.

"My Life as a White Trash Zombie" by Diana Rowland

310 pages

Angel Crawford isn't exactly a model citizen. She's a high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record. She hates living with her alcoholic deadbeat dad in the swamps of southern Louisiana, but she can't move out because she can't hold on to any of the crappy jobs she keeps getting fired from. Now on probation for a felony, it seems that Angel will never pull herself out of the downward spiral her life has taken. Everything changes one day when she wakes up in the ER after supposedly overdosing on painkillers. All she remembers is being in an horrible car crash, but she doesn't have a mark on her. Then she receives a mysterious, anonymous letter telling her there's a job waiting for her at the parish morgue, and she'd better take it--or else. When Angel starts working and realizes that she craves the brains she deals with at the morgue, she starts putting the pieces together and figures out that she's a zombie. The mystery is far from solved, however. How did she get this way? Who has been sending the anonymous letters? Is there a cure? Angel needs to get some answers before she turns into a raving monster.

I expected this to be just a fun, silly read, and it turned out to be much more than that. Sure, there were plenty of cheap jokes (of the white trash variety), but the main premise of the story is unique--a steady diet of brains keeps the zombies from decaying and actually makes them smarter, faster, and stronger--and there's a pretty good mystery that surprised me at the end (granted, I don't read a lot of mysteries, so I suppose I'm not too hard too fool). Angel is a frustrating character, but she grows a lot throughout the story (yes, even as a zombie) and I definitely sympathized with her by the conclusion. Looks like this is the first book in a series, so I look forward to more from Angel and her crew.

Efrain's Secret by Sofia Quintaro

2010/240 pgs

About the Book: Efrain is an ambitious, smart, high schooler who wants to be accepted into Harvard. He knows there's no way he could afford an Ivy League school, but he knows he has the grades if he could find the money. When he's offered a chance to join his friend selling drugs, Efrain decides to lead a double life-good student by day, drug dealer by night. He needs the money and it's just until graduates and he can keep it secret until then-he just needs to not get caught.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: Efrain is a character I could connect with from the start. He's smart, ambitious, he's funny, and he's a good kid who has been dealt a bad hand. I cared about him and his story. He doesn't make the best decisions and it's painful to read because you know his story can't end well. Usually I find endings that have an "if only" twist to them annoying and frustrating, but I felt this one worked and was needed to really hit home.

Mindblind by Jennifer Roy


It seems like there are more novels in YA coming out with narrators or characters on the autisim spectrum. Nathanial has Asperger's Syndrome and he's very smart (but not yet a genuis, although he will be, he says). Nathanial is an interesting character and while I liked the book as a whole, it was a bit too wonderfully perfect. There wasn't much tension-there's a bit with Nathanial's father, but not enough to carry the story. Nathanial socializes well, he has friends who understand and accept him, and his mom is a wonderful, understanding mother. He's graduating college, onto a master's program (even though he's only 14), and he's in a band. The whole thing was just a bit too perfect life, everyone's understanding and accepting, life is beautiful sort of story. There were moments where I liked a peek into Nathanial's mind, and the story was OK, but it did feel a bit too after school special-like.

Rikers High by Paul Volponi


I've read Paul Volponi's books in the past and liked them, but I think Rikers High is my least favorite offering. I never really liked or cared about the main character, I found the supporting characters a bit hard to keep track of because none of them really had anything stand out about them, and the story as a whole just fell a bit flat. I thought the teachers would have more of a standout role and they never really seemed to be that inspiring. I wasn't aths impressed with this book as I had wanted or thought I would be.

In A Heartbeat by Loretta Ellsworth


In A Heartbeat has two points of view-Eagan, an ice skater who had one tiny mistake that ended in her death, and Amelia-the recipient of Eagan's heart. Amelia begins to feel like she's taking on parts of her donor's personality and interests and wants to know more about her donor.

I liked this book, a lot more than I thought I would, but I still could have done without the two points of view. I can see where Eagan's story was needed so we knew more about her and her influence on Amelia, but I didn't really care about her wanderings in her half-heaven that she was stuck in. Each chapter startedr the same, so it was a bit boring. Having her story added a sadness to the story as well, so I'd give this to fans of Lurlene McDaniel. I did like Amelia's storyline and I found her character interesting. I also liked that the subject matter was unique and different.

Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski


What would you do if you could talk to your younger self? What would you want to change? For Devi, the chance comes true when she magically gets the chance to call her freshman self on her cell phone. Now a senior, Devi wants to warn her younger self away from Brian, away from heartbreak, and away from loosing all her friends.

The two storylines between freshman Devi and senior Devi play off each other well. Each version of Devi has a uniqaue voice and each time the younger Devi follows the advice of the older, the older's present changes-and not always for the better like she thought. Working together, they figure out the best path for both of them. A fun, unique novel with a chick-lit feel.

The Candidates by Inara Scott

2010/293 pgs

The Candidates is an interesting take on the teens with powers storyline. The book combines powers, superhero-like teens, and boarding schools to give it a fresh new take. The story takes a bit to really get going and this is very much a set up for book two in the series. There is still something that kept me reading though. The characters are interesting and I think the set up could lead to a good, unique series. I'd recommend to teens who like X-Men.

Sellout by Ebony Joy Wilkins

2010/272 pgs

Sellout was a YA novel that I wasn't sure what I thought of. I thought it was a bit preachy and predictable. But I also liked part of it as well.

I didn't really understand why Natasha's grandmother, Tilly, felt she was so far removed from her "roots" and needed to spend the summer with her. Natasha had spent previous summers with Tilly in Harlem and the only event leading up to Natasha being sent this summer is that she looses a ribbon during a ballet recital. Apparently it was very offensive to her grandmother that she was taking ballet. I would have liked more reasoning behind why Natasha was so far removed or at least a better explanation as to why it was important.

I also thought Tilly was a bit maniuplative. She claimed she wanted Natasha's help at the girl's home she volunteered at, but instead I felt like she used that as an excuse to get Natasha to be part of the house and the therapy the girls attended. It felt sneaky and made me not like Tilly.

The book got better towards the end, but did have a cheesy over the top feel good message. But some readers may need a cheesy over the top message and the story as a whole was good.

For Keeps by Natasha Friend


About the Book: Josie never knew her father (her mother got pregnant in high school and her father went away to college). Now his parents are back in town which means the father she never knew may be around soon.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: It's been a few weeks since I read For Keeps and I had to go back and look at it to remember what it was about. Obviously it didn't stand out among my reading this month!

I think fans of Gilmore Girls would love this one-it had a similar feel. The story was good and I liked the eccentric cast of characters. While the story might not have been the most memorable, the writing was good. This is a feel good contemporary YA.

Hothouse by Chris Lynch


I had high hopes for this book to be good after hearing great things about Chris Lynch. Unfortunately, this was not a book for me. It took too long for the story to get going and I thought the main idea of the novel wasn't strong enough. The plot is about two boys whose fathers are killed in a fire, but it turns out they may not have been as perfect as people had thought. I thought it took too long to really get the story going and I never really cared about any of the characters.

You Wish by Mandy Hubbard


About the Book: When Kayla's sweet sixteen turns into the party she never wanted and instead a client preview for her mom's party planning buisness, Kayla makes the wish "I wish all my birthday wishes came true because they never freakin' do." The next thing Kayla knows, she has a lifetime supply of gumballs, a life size plastic looking guy is showing up at her door claiming he's her boyfriend, and a real life My Little Pony is in her backyard. She has to figure out a way to stop this before her last year wish comes true-that she would kiss her best friend's boyfriend.

Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This one was cute, but a bit too long for my tastes. I thought the story could have wrapped up sooner and it dragged a bit. I also thought the wishes could have been more creative. Most of Kayla's wishes have to do with things coming to life, which got a bit old. There is lots of humor and I think teens who like lightharted, funny novels with a touch of romance will enjoy this one.

Blank Confession by Pete Hautman

2010/170 pgs

This is a short novel, but it kept me engaged and turning pages. Shayne is a new kid in town that has no problem getting into trouble. He arrives at the police station confessing to a murder, the police aren't sure what to make of him. But things don't add up.

The book is told in multiple points of view and we get Shayne's confession, his best friend's point of view, and the police officer who really wanted to be a teacher to help teens like Shayne. There are plenty of twists and turns and the ending was a satisfying surprise. I'd recommend this one to teens who like a bit of mystery as well as reluctant readers.

A Fine and Private Place

by Peter S. Beagle, 272 pages

"The grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace."
-- Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress"

I was wondering where the title came from. And then the title page told me. And then I read the book and went, "Ohhhhh, clever." :P

Mr. Rebeck has been secretly living in an abandoned mausoleum in New York's Yorkchester cemetery for the last nineteen years. He washes up in the lavatory by the front gates at night when no one's looking. A cocky, cynical, very raven-like raven brings him food twice a day and sometimes passes on news from the city beyond the walls. And every now and then someone finds him and talks with him and plays chess with him...until they forget him...and words and chess and everything else related to the life they no longer possess. And then they vanish. They always do. But some fight it more than others.

Oh, this is wonderful. Again, I'm reminded of a less dark, less sharp-edged Gaiman, this time The Graveyard Book. Although Mr. Rebeck is in his fifties, self-sufficient (minus the raven, of course), and hiding from life rather than death, there is still that spirit of wonder, eternal ephemerality, and camaraderie amongst the headstones. We sit with him as he hears out a confused ghost and offers comfort as best he can. We follow a visitor home to the real world, cross their threshold, and trail behind them from room to room as they go about their daily existence and miss what is no longer there. We eavesdrop on characters' thoughts and encounters like ghosts ourselves, clinging to Mr. Rebeck's wisdom until we start to worry that he, too, needs a counselor, someone to talk him into examining himself and re-evaluating the merits of the long-abandoned world of the living. And if some of his unintentional advisors happen themselves to be dead, what of it?

The novel--Beagle's first, published in 1960 when he was just 19!!--deals with the limitations of life, death, love, and self...and sometimes with their unexpected limitlessness. The Last Unicorn, published in 1968, may be a little more fluid and outwardly fantastical, but this is just as lovely. I must go find me some more. :)

Demon Sacred: Volume 3

by Natsumi Itsuki, 189 pages

K2's little jaunt in the outside world has consequences for more than just his roomies. The young man whose face he shares comes to the apartment for answers, but Keito--having his own history with demons--doesn't find those revelations very comforting. Meanwhile, the gang also have to deal with another local demon and his chain and all the unwelcome attention they're getting from unchained demons looking for either a snack (they're cannibals by nature) or to score a connection. Mona will do whatever she has to in order to protect her "family," but she'd rather avoid further violence if at all possible. And as if all that weren't enough, Shinobu's scary adopted brother is back in town and asking him to join his research organization. But Helmut doesn't want to better understand "intelligence" (the research community's term for demons)--he wants to exterminate them.

The story behind the new chain and his demon is sweet and sad. K2 and Mika had better follow orders and leave them be. I hope Keito can get past his own bitter memories and get more involved with Mona and the others. It would be fun to watch him and K2 fight (or really, to watch Keito put up with K2's persistent, obnoxious-child nature). Is that mean of me? :P

Plots and lies and bonds look to be soon exposed, and after a bumpy first volume I am now thoroughly enjoying the ride. Once I get my hands on the fourth one, I'll have to start holding my breath for somebody to pick up the English license and publish the rest.

V.B. Rose: Volume 12

by Banri Hidaka, 189 pages

Mitsu's resilient constitution finally collapses under the combined weight of a cold and the news of Tsuyu's upcoming arranged-marriage meeting. Seeing an opening he can't pass up, Arisaka surprises Ageha by placing a quick call and giving their friends a gentle nudge in the right direction.

Yeah, sic sweet Tsuyu on crazy Mitsu when he's sick and can't properly defend himself! Hee hee hee. Adorable. Who knew Arisaka had it in him? Perhaps it's in return for all the meddling nudges Mitsu gave Arisaka and Ageha? Same happy result, so who cares? The quirks and built-upon relationships and background shenanigans make this series fun. Hidaka is at her best when she's laying her characters' hearts out in the open for everyone to see and letting the chain reaction honesty fly (although she's pretty good with the snarkitude, too).

I hope the last two books get picked up by somebody out there now that Tokyopop's gone, but at least this volume pleasantly ties up a major plot thread and leaves everybody smiling (including the reader). If it has to stall out, it could have picked a worse place to do it. :)

Angel Diary: Volume 13

by YunHee Lee (story) and Kara (a.k.a. Yoon-Gyeong Kim and Eun-Sook Jeong, art), 156 pages

Chapters focusing on the stories of three side characters fill up this final volume of the series. We learn how Bi-Wal's right-hand-man came into his service, how Dong-Young met two of her Guardians, and about a classmate's experience with one of those Guardians.

Apparently, this series almost didn't get to finish in Korea, with the creators having to find a new publisher partway through. I'm glad they were able to finish their story. The telling is complicated and a little disjointed at times, and the large cast of characters (and their job titles) can be hard to keep straight, but if you can read the series without too much of a lag between volumes, it makes more sense. :)

Vagabond: Volume 20

by Takehiko Inoue, based on the novel Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa, 214 pages

Kojirô is stumbled upon by a group of weary soldiers disguised as peasants in order to better hide from the mobs. But Kojirô is deaf and only sees more people after his life. Their aging leader sees the fire in the young man's eyes and shoos his men off, telling them to go on without him. But souls tied to swords do not know how to walk away from a true fight, even an unnecessary one. Exhausted Kojirô takes on one opponent after another, constantly discovering new knowledge about himself, the sword, and his opponent. As he faces off with Koun, he looks more alive and happy than ever. And the young man crossing swords with him feels the same way. But that joy comes from well-matched opponents going all-out, wagering life on every swing and every breath. This meeting of new-found friends can only end one way.

You want to dive into this story and stop the characters, but you know that even if you could it would do no good, because this is what they want. It's what they live for. And what they're willing to die for. And that's the best, though meager, comfort the reader is offered. It takes the edge off the internal "nooooooooooooooo," but you still get a little tight in the chest when you get to those last three pages. Owy.

Angel Diary: Volume 12

by YunHee Lee (story) and Kara (a.k.a. Yoon-Gyeong Kim and Eun-Sook Jeong, art), 181 pages

Dong-Young runs away from home (that would be Heaven) and falls in love with a boy, Bi-Wal, at the school she orders her minions to hide her in. It's only after-the-fact that she realizes he is the arranged fiancé she'd been running away from in the first place and not so awful as her imagination had made him out to be. Just because he's the next King of Hell doesn't mean he's a monster. She decides that the only way to make everything right that long-held misconceptions and misunderstandings have made wrong is to become the next Queen of Heaven and change some laws. So she asks Bi-Wal to go home to Hell and wait for her while she returns to Heaven and works toward her goal.

This series is a little hard to follow, politics-wise, and there are lots and lots of characters to keep straight, but it's fun and fluffy and even made me a little sniffley once a few volumes back. The main story mostly wraps up in this penultimate volume along with two extended side stories on the pasts and futures of a number of the characters.

Afterschool Charisma: Volume 3

by Kumiko Suekane, 199 pages

Shiro tries to process newly revealed, life-altering possibilities as his clone friends and the St. Kleio staff begin their skills expo. But those plotting against the academy, and some of those plotting within it, send the carefully constructed event--and the carefully constructed lives of those participating--into chaos.

Yikes! The Director, whom I didn't trust before, is now on my official heartless-villains-I-hope-suffer list, despite his goofiness. He may be good for laughs, but I fear for the physical and mental well-being of any character sharing air with him. He exemplifies that disassociation in which the clones are seen as valueless beyond their capacity to contribute to the pocketbooks of those with power. I might hate him.

I want to read the next book! Who's alive?! Who has escaped? Who's really up to what and how are they all connected?! And how has all this mess changed those who remain?

"I Am J" by Cris Beam

326 pages

J is a 17-year-old who feels like a boy mistakenly born in a female's body. He's felt like that for as long as he can remember.When he finally shares his secret with his mother and his best friend, Melissa, they reject him. Crushed, he decides to run away and finally become the person he was supposed to be. Of course, his plan doesn't go at all the way he expected.

I haven't seen any other books from the perspective of a transgender teen, so I think it's great that this book is out there. It seems like the author did her research and has some knowledge about what it would be like to be in J's shoes. On the other hand, the main storyline is fairly predictable and I'd like it more if the pace was a little faster. Also, the ending is too perfect and fairy-taleish for me. Despite all that, it still held my interest and I'm happy to see a book that touches on this topic.