Friday, July 14, 2006

15 Reviews for you

So here are the books that I read while I was on vacation. Since I have been home, I have been reading through my trashy romance novel pile, so I don't add those books to the list. Now that I am caught up, I am back to reading YA fiction. I've got a good stack to go through. Is there anyone out there in downtown Salt Lake who wants to read for reviews too?

Muchamore, Robert Maximum Security, 287 p. Simon and Schuster – 13 year old James Adams is tapped for a highly dangerous mission – entering a maximum security prison for juvenile offenders as an inmate and cuddling up to the only son of a major weapons dealer. CHERUB can not protect James once he is inside – not from the factions within the inmate groups, and not from guards who might be out for revenge. A much grittier CHERUB novel than the previous two. References to make body parts, a very graphic body cavity search scene, and violent fights elevate the maturity of this novel. Think hard before you put it in the middle school. MS-OPTIONAL, HS-ADVISABLE

Sorrells, Walter The Silent Room, 233 p. Oz’ new stepfather pushes him and goads him into fighting until Oz’ mother finally agrees to send him to a detention facility. Life on the facility’s tiny island is harsh and unbearable and the other boys whisper about ‘The Silent Room”. Oz’ and the other boys in his dorm have discovered an old boat abandoned in the swamp and work desperately to get it in working order so that they can escape. Oz, befriending the daughter of the camp director, learns that the director’s wife and one of the benefactors are actually dangerous con artists, who have plans for the boys under their care. When I started reading this novel, I first thought I was experiencing dejavu, but then realized that I was mixing it up with Willo Davis Robert’s “Blood on his Hands,” because both novels use the evil stepfather setting up the stepson in order to get rid of him as the major step up for the action. This sin one of those books that will make you queasy with tension as you read, a feeling that middle school students love. MS-ESSENTIAL

Davidson, Ellen Dee Stolen Voices 188 p. Lobster Press – At 15, Miri is supposed to be looking forward to being Masked and Bonded to her age mates. Unfortunately, she has no Talent and feels like a failure. Unable to join her friends, she sneaks in and witnesses the ritual – and is caught by the Masker – who has other plans for Miri. With the help of a rebel servant, Miri escapes to the Secret Valley and finds her destiny. An excellent piece of science fiction from a small press out of Quebec. I hope you can get your hands on a copy. MS, HS-ESSENTIAL

L’Homme, Erik Mystery of Lord Sha and Face of the Shadow, Scholastic – Second and final in the Quadehar trilogy. Robin and his friends have returned safely from the Uncertain Lands and are working on their chosen career paths. One evening Robin’s mentor Quadehar returns to the Unknown Lands on a secret quests, leaving Robin once again in the monastery of Gifdu for protection,. Instead, a mysterious figure cloaked in black breaches the security and hunts Robin down. Since these books are already in paperback, they would be worth adding to a large fantasy collection. EL, MS-OPTIONAL

Freymann-Wyer, Garret Stay With Me, 238 p. Houghton – 16 year old Leila is trying to cope with the suicide death of her much older half sister and her guilty feelings for not knowing her other family better. While trying to track down a mystery man she saw with her sister at a coffee house, Leila takes a waitressing job and ends up involved with 31 year old man. As I sit writing this review, I feel like the whole premise of the book is pretty weak. I actually enjoyed watching Leila and her extended family deal with their grief, but I could never get over my revulsion to the May-December romance which was so acceptable to Leila’s entire family – including the sex. NO

Lasky, Kathryn Born to Rule, 160 p HarperCollins – Alicia, a princess of B----- is away for her first summer at princess camp. She has formed a bond of friendship with her roommates, but she is struggling with the challenge every princess must face – finding and training a songbird. To further complicate things, rumors of a ghost haunting Alicia’s tower seem to have some truth, distracting Alicia with an enticing mystery. Fluffy and cute, prefect for middle elementary. EL-ADVSIABLE

Price, Charlie Dead Connection, 240 p. Roaring Book Press – Murray has been communing with the youngest residents of the local cemetery for some time now – to escape his home situation, to escape his school situation. After a very rough beginning, Murray forms a friendship with Pearl, the daughter of the cemetery’s caretaker. She supports him when he hears a new voice – one that he thinks belongs to a girl who disappeared months earlier. While I enjoyed the unfolding of the mystery, a wide variety of swear words and a plot point involving a violent alcoholic left me cold. A book for the older crowd. HS-OPTIONAL

Winterson, Jeanette Tanglewreck 416 p. Bloomsbury – When Silver was 7, her parents and sister died in a car accident. Now, four years later, she is still living in her home, but under the care of an evil guardian who makes her life miserable. Events have been set in motion that will send Silver across the world, across time, across space, introducing her to friends to help her and villains who want to possess her – with everyone in pursuit of the Timekeeper. Books written about time and space have to be carefully plotted and/or written brilliantly so that even if you are confused occasionally, you love it so much you are willing to go back and figure out how you got lost. Michael Lawrence’s Small Eternities is a good example of these two qualities. This particular title, however falls a bit below the mark in either of these traits. With an 11-year old protagonist, I don’t see how it will appeal to someone who can actually follow the action. MS-OPTIONAL

Durrant, Lynda My Last Skirt: The Story of Jennie Hodgers, Union Soldier, 208 p. Clarion – As a girl in the hills of Scotland, Jennie masqueraded as a boy in order to help her family earn much needed coins. When she and her brother immigrate to America, she keeps up the charade, going as far as to join a Union regiment during the Civil War. Even after the war she maintains the fiction, until one day her lifelong secret is discovered. Full of fascinating details of battles as life as a soldier, but the human parts are rather stiff and sketchy. If you need a new Civil War novel to round out a collection, then buy in hardcover, otherwise wait for the paperback. EL, MS-OPTIONAL

Sage, Angie My Haunted House and The Sword in the Grotto 144 p. each HarperCollins – Araminta Spookie lives contentedly with her Aunt Tabitha and Uncle Drac in a fantastically creepy house where she can’t find a single ghost. One day Aunt Tabby announces that she is sick and tired of the broken down house and is determined to find a buyer. Mint knows that she must do something drastic in order to keep her home. In the second title, as Minty searches for the perfect birthday present for a 500-year old, she and her new best friend Wanda are in desperate danger in an undersea grotto which is quickly filling with water. Cute. creepy fiction for the younger crowd. EL-ADVISABLE

Dines, Carol The Queen’s Soprano, 336 p. Harcourt – Angelica lives in Rome during the time of Pope Inocente IX, who is determined to bring the entire city under papal rule, while keeping a firm grip on the lives of the women, too. Angelica’s beautiful voice attracts negative attention and in order to escape the pope’s influence and her domineering mother, she takes a position as soprano to the only remaining queen of one of Rome’s last free quarters. Angelica is not ready for court life and intrigue and danger to her reputation is always close at hand. A beautifully written book that will probably have a hard time finding an audience without some help. A good addition to a larger library wi island th an active historical fiction collection. MS, HS – OPTIONAL

Fisher, Catherine Day of the Scarab, 400 p. HarperCollins – Final in the Oracle Prophecies. Mirany, Seth, Oblek, the Jackal and Alexos must fight not only against Argelin, but also against Argelin’s mercenaries, Mantos the sorceress, the Emperor and factions within the Nine in this fast moving end to the Oracle trilogy. This is a much better book that the slow moving middle book, with all of the disparate plots and characters coming together for a nail-biting finish. MS, HS – ADVISABLE

Stanley, Diane Bella at Midnight 278 p. HarperCollins – At birth Bella’s knight father gives her to a foster family to raise, far from his sight. In the small village, Bella also meets and becomes fast friends with one of the sons of her country’s king. At 16, Bella is summarily called “home”, where she meets a new stepmother and sisters, who find Bella well beneath them. Then she hears news that forces her to take bold steps that will change her future. This book is unfortunately terribly derivative (a step mother and two stepsisters!?), drawing together familiar elements of several familiar fairy tales, without creating something so new and fresh that you feel you are reading something brand new. Younger students, who are maybe not as familiar with their fairytales won’t mind, but older students and adults will. EL-ADVISABLE, MS-OPTIONAL

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