Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Playing with Matches by Brian Katcher - ADVISABLE

Katcher, Brian. Playing With Matches, 304 pgs. Random House Children’s Books

Language~PG-13, Sexual Content~PG-13; Violence~G;


Leon dreams of one day hooking up with the beautiful Amy Green. Unfortunately, Leon is your typical seventeen year old complete with obnoxious cohorts and girls who are friends . . . but not girlfriends. More often than not he is concentrating on her in chemistry instead of the teacher. Then he is paired with Melody for their history project and things start to change for Leon. Melody was involved in a sever accident that left her face badly burned. Teased relentlessly since her accident, Melody is used to people not wanting to be around her. Being forced to work with Melody, Leon discovers they have much in common and their friendship quickly develops into something more. . . until Amy enters the picture. This story maneuvers the reader through the halls of high school life complete with crude language, bawdy humor, and unexpected romance. It is a great story about inward beauty and the consequences that come with choices.

Allison Madsen~Teen Librarian-SJO Public Librarian

Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer - ESSENTIAL

Meyer, Stephenie. Breaking Dawn, 754 pgs. Harcourt, Inc.;

Language~PG-13, Sexual Content~PG-13; Violence~PG-13


*****Warning . . .may contain spoiliers*****

It is finally here, Bella’s wedding day. Fans of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga have waited for this day with bated breath. As part of their compromise, Edward promised to turn Bella into a vampire if she would marry him. The wedding was everything a girl could ask for and the honeymoon on Esme’s private island. . . Bliss. . . .until Bella discovered she’s pregnant! Wait a minute, how is that possible? No one knows and the demon baby is growing abnormally fast. Similar to her other titles this story is told from both Bella’s and Jacob’s perspective. While not her best literary effort, Meyer does conclude her saga well by tying up loose ends and answering many questions raised throughout her other titles. Her audience’s response to this final novel is polarized . . . the reader either likes it or does not. There are frequent references to sexual encounters though they are not graphic. The occasional swear word also appears throughout the book. Overall, this title is for a more mature reader than Meyer’s other works. Due to its overwhelming popularity, this title is a must.

Allison Madsen~Teen Librarian-SJO Public Librarian

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Season by Sarah MacLean - ADVISABLE

MacLean, Sarah The Season, 352 p. Orchard (Scholatic), March 2009.


Lady Alexandra is about to be presented to society and she is not enthused. Her best friends, Ella and Vivi are trying to keep her spirits up, but Alex is dead set against being matched-made by her mama. Then her older brothers' best friend, Gavin, Earl of Blackmoor, comes out of mourning and she begins to see him in another light. What she doesn't know is that danger surrounds Gavin and not just danger of the heart.

MacLean has created a classic romance novel without the bodice-ripping that would keep most such books out of the schools. The romance was nice, with that hint of danger and all three of the girls were delightful; I would love to read Ella and Vivi's own romances. About the only thing I didn't like about the book was the cover, but I read an uncorrected proof, so I can't make any final judgments on that. There are a handful of swears (no "f") that don't jar the narration.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

The Rule of Won by Stefan Petrucha - OPTIONAL

Petrucha, Stefan The Rule of Won, 240 p. (approx), Walker (Bloomsbury), 2008.


Slacker Caleb has been accused of destroying the school gym and his girlfriend is barely speaking to him. In order to regain her affections, he agrees to join a group called a Crave, which is dedicated to the "Rule of Won", or sending positive thoughts out into the universe in order to get the things that they want. The leader of the Crave, Ethan, seems to really believe and successfully leads the group through two successful "imanifests", but Caleb suspects that the circumstances were a little fishy, a little manipulated. His doubts and challenges begin to annoy the other Cravers and when he becomes defiant, they become hostile.

At first as I was reading, I kept thinking that The Wave by Strasser is the quintessential book about the power of a cult in school, but I also realize that new books can be written about the same subject. Will this replace The Wave? I don't think so. Does it have its place in your library? Yes, in a larger collection.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg - OPTIONAL

Burg, Ann E. All the Broken Pieces, 224 pg. Scholastic, April 2009.


Matt Pin was rescued from Vietnam by a desperate mother who thrust him into the arms of a brigade of American soldiers. Now, two years later, he has somewhat adjusted to his American home and is loved by his American family, but the war persists and so do bad feelings towards the "enemy". Piano and baseball maybe a refuge for Matt, but not every one on his team welcomes him with open arms.

Though I don't usually like free-verse novels, this one reads well, giving the bones of the narrative without excessive filler, fluff or distracters. Like Out of the Dust, All the Broken Pieces makes an historic time period accessible to younger students, or a savvy teacher can use it as a springboard to a deeper look at the Vietnam War.

Cindy, Library-Teacher

Native Tongue by Shannon Greenland - ADVISABLE

Greenland, Shannon The Specialists: Native Tongue, 237 p. Speak (Penguin), 2008.

Language - PG, Violence - PG, Sexual Content - G


The Specialists need Gigi's math brain to unravel the hieroglyphics in an ancient cavesite in order to determine which Indian tribe can actually lay claim to a vase with supposed mystical powers. Her cohort on the mission includes Parrot, who has secrets that connect him to one of the tribal chiefs, a chief with a streak of viciousness. Of course the groups lives will be in danger somewhere along the way.

I think the Specialists is a great filler series for kids who like spy novels, but aren't up to Michael Crichton. Its not squeaky clean, but they are riddle filled and action-packed. This is the fourth book in the series.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Fiendish Deeds by P.J. Bracegirdle - ADVISABLE

Bracegirdle, P.J. Fiendish Deeds (The Joy of Spooking #1), 224 p. McElderry (Simon), 2008.


Joy loves her rambling old house at the top of Spooking Hill where she lives with her younger brother Bryan and her parents. However, she doesn't love the trip to school each day into the town Darlington - a town of strip malls and cookie cutter homes which surround her beloved hill. When Joy catches the word about a planned water park to be built in place of the Spooking bog, she does what she can to thwart the plans, including befriending the scary old lady who makes the swamp her home.

Joy and Spooking feel like a more developed and less psychopathic version of Edgar and Ellen (by Charles Ogden). Kids who want something a little creepy without moving over to full fledged vampire books will enjoy this series.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Birth of the Pack by Petru Popescu - ADVISABLE

Popescu, Petru Birth of the Pack, 347 p. TOR, 2008.

Language - PG-13, Violence - PG


Determined to start a girls' soccer team, Lily, 16, and her friends get permission, make the field and the goal posts and take themselves everywhere they need to go to play other club teams - even teams of boys. Just as their success becomes palpable, rich girl Andra comes to town and basically has her daddy buy the girls' team out from under Lily and the others. Lily is not about to give up without a fight. However, she has no idea that her fight is going to unleash supernatural forces of good and evil, forces that will change her life and her friends' lives forever.

There is enough drama on just the soccer side of this novel to keep a reader interested, but the Weregirls side is an added bonus. Be aware - girls who only love the supernatural may be put off by all the soccer talk, like my daughter was. Here's hoping that book number two is less about soccer and more about Weregirls and Breeders. Of course, you should be aware that this book is about the supernatural; there are also about 3 dozen swear words (no "f").

Cindy, Library-Teacher

Take Me There by Susane Colasanti - NO

Colasanti, Susane Take Me There, 290 p. Viking (Penguin), 2008.

Language - R(various swears, including several "f"; Sexual Content - PG (implied, but not described rape), Violence - PG.


7 days, three points of view. Nicole has ditched her boyfriend for unknown reasons, but he keeps quietly trying to get her back. Rhiannon was stunningly dumped by her boyfriend and seems to wallow in the pain and plans elaborate schemes to win back his love. James has been Rhiannon's best friend forever and is just now willing to admit to himself that he may want something more. Rhiannon is a pretty good representation of a girl who lets her boyfriend define her self-esteem and how devastating that is when it is all pulled away. Nicole has a secret that she isn't even willing to admit herself - a secret that has the power to screw up every future relationship.

I liked the author's review of the seven days, each from a different perspective; it felt genuine, not forced. Each character came out true to themselves without embellishment, except for the mandatory sexy boy talk, including heightened levels of swearing. I would leave this one to the public libraries, because even though it feels real, James sex obsession mars what could have been a great selection.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Crossing to Paradise by Crossley-Holland - OPTIONAL

Crossley-Holland, Kevin Crossing to Paradise, 400 p. Scholastic, September 2008.


Gatty expects to finish her life as an uneducated village girl, barely scraping out a living for herself. Her family is all dead and her best friend, Arthur is earning a name for himself off on Crusade; he is destined to marry a local lord's daughter upon his return. First her lord wants to give her to the church, but they want too much "dowry". Then her lady finds that her cousin to the north is setting off on pilgrimage and needs a second handmaiden. Thus begins Gatty's long journey across the sea, across Europe and into the Holy Land. Every member of the group will be beset with hardships, one of them mortal. Gatty will have to find her own strength and courage, as she may have to continue her journey alone.

As beautifully as this book is written, I can't see students reading it and then telling their friends about it. Instead, it is one of those books that adults will love for students - and hopefully quite a few teachers around the country will adopt it as a text - it would be perfect for religion, European history, or just for a 7,8 or 9th grade Language Arts class. For libraries, however, it is best in a larger collection.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

The Otherworldlies by Jennifer Anne Kogler - ESSENTIAL

Kogler, Jennifer Anne The Otherworldlies, 383 p. Eos (Harper), 2008.


Fern has never looked like the others in her family, but she had no idea how different she actually was. Her twin brother, Sam, has done his best to protect her from the scorn of the students, but even he is feeling the strain. Then, something happens that alerts the entire world that Fern really is different. Now both friends and enemies are converging to control Fern's life and possibly her power.

Does that sound obscure enough? I don't want to give away too much - but you will LOVE this book! Every library that has Twilight in it needs to buy this one right away!! There - enough secrets given away.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Deadly Little Secret by Laurie Faria Stolarz - ADVISABLE

Stolarz, Laurie Faria Deadly Little Secret, 288 p. Hyperion, December 2008.


Camelia is definitely attracted to Ben, the one that everyone else says is a bad boy - danger on two feet. Ben's already saved her life once, even if he won't admit it, but he does act strange around her and strange things are starting to happen. Someone is after Camelia, maybe only to scare her, and she isn't sure whom she can turn to. Ben is willing to confess his secrets to Camelia, but she isn't too sure that she is willing to completely trust him. When the danger reaches the breaking point, is Ben the one doing the breaking or is he the one she can turn to?

This is a good mid-level spooky (not ghosts) story; it has a bit of magic (which it doesn't really need), but the true story lies in the chronicle of obsession, of the power of rumor, of how easy and how hard it is to love. There are about 20 swears, no "f's"; the swearing is not obtrusive.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Wings by E.D. Baker - ADVISABLE

Baker, E.D. Wings, 250 p. (approx). Bloomsbury, 2008.


Tamisin has always been different - from her pointy-tipped ears to her sparkling freckles. And only she can seem to see the twisted creatures that roam around her town, especially on Halloween. Then comes Jak, who seems to really like Tamisin, in spite of her differences, or maybe because of them. What she doesn't know, however, is that Jak himself is different, in a spookier way. And he is in Tamisin's town on a mission.

A bit darker than Baker's Frog Princess books, enough that this probably shouldn't go into elementary schools. But older students, following the trend of the darker fairy tale, will enjoy this one.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Sucks to be Me by Kimberly Pauley - ESSENTIAL

Pauley, Kimberly Sucks To Be Me, 304 p. Mirrorstone, September, 2008.


Mina Hamilton has always known that her parents and her uncle are vampires. But now all of the other vampires know about Mina and she has decide in the next month whether to become a vamp herself or not. Of course, no one is saying what might happen if she chooses the "or not" part. But vampire classes aren't so bad, especially since they include Aubrey, who is too hot for words and he seems to be really interested in Mina, or in her family at least. And even a guy from her own school is there taking the lessons too.

When I was reading this I had a hard time not comparing it to Evernight by Claudia Gray. Then I heard her daughter, who was constantly chuckling and giggling as she took her turn at the reading. We both agree that Evernight is a great dramatic read on a similar situation, but that Sucks is the winner in the humor department. If your school is collecting vampire books, this is a great one for the middle.

Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Violet on the Runway by Melissa Walker (Scholastic Edition) - ESSENTIAL

Walker, Melissa Violet on the Runway, 228 p. Special Scholastic Edition (originally released by Penguin), 2008.

First - please be aware that you SHOULD NOT confuse the Penguin original edition with the Special Scholastic Edition of this book.

Violet Greenfield is super tall, super skinny and super not-fitting-in at her high school. Oh, she has her friends, but not much more than a couple. At her movie theater job, one night, she catches the eye of a high fashion model agent, who hands Violet her card and starts her on the road to supermodel-dom. Violet makes a huge splash on her very first trip down the runway and as soon as possible she heads off for a life in the big city to see if she can really make it. Violet is dazzled by the bright lights, hurt by her callous model roommates and drawn into the party life of seeing and being-seen. Then an ugly confrontation with last best friend wakes Violet up to the fact that she had better make some hard choices, or the model lifestyle may very well eat her up.

Scholastic has managed to scrub away every swear word, drug and alcohol reference in the book. Though the book lost its "edginess", it didn't lose its main message about the model lifestyle. The cover is ultra pink, a bit sparkly and definitely attention-catching. If you choose this particular edition for your school library, you can do so without wincing and know that it will make the rounds. I don't think you can get in anywhere except at the Scholastic book fairs, so you'd better find your closest warehouse and pick up a couple today!

MS - ESSENTIAL. Cindy, Library-Teacher.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mississippi Jack by L.A. Meyer - ADVISABLE

Meyer, L.A. Mississippi Jack: Being an Account of the Further Waterborne Adventures of Jacky Faber, Midshipman, Fine Lady, and Lily of the West, 611 pgs. Harcourt, Inc.

Language~PG-13, Sexual Content~PG-13; Violence~PG-13


Jacky’s adventures take her to the great Mississippi. For anyone who enjoys Mark Twain’s trip down the river, this book will bring back the flavor of those times. The book alternates between Jacky and Jaimy as narrators. Jaimy is in constant pursuit of Jacky through the entire novel and although tiring at times, gives a different perspective. Jacky through her wiling ways commandeers a river boat and turns it into a traveling show boat. Her adventures down river lead her to meet such characters from history as Sacajawea, Tecumseh, and pre-Civil War plantation/slave owners.

This book is an enjoyable read from start to finish!

Allison Madsen~Teen Librarian-SJO Public Librarian

In the Belly of the Bloodhound by L.A. Meyer - ADVISABLE

Meyer, L.A. In the Belly of the Bloodhound: Being an Account of a Particularly Peculiar Adventure in the Life of Jacky Faber, 515 pgs. Harcourt, Inc.

Language~PG-13, Sexual Content~PG-13; Violence~PG-13


Having just barely escaped the clutches of the British Navy, Jacky is headed back for Boston and the safety of America. Much to her surprise she is welcomed back into the arms of Mistress Pimm and the Lawson Peabody School of Young Girls. Under the guise of a scientific exploration, Jacky and the girls are abducted and forced into the hold of a slaving ship, there to travel to Africa to be sold as white slaves into harems. The majority of this adventure is told while in the hold of the ship. These proper and prim girls are now forced to live a nightmarish existence with no hope of escape or rescue. Jacky bands the girls together and they work to free themselves from the slavers.

This book provides a unique look at the slavery trade of the early 1800’s. Meyer’s writing is enjoyable and Jacky’s adventures never cease to delight the reader.

Allison Madsen~Teen Librarian-SJO Public Librarian

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer - ESSENTIAL

Meyer, Stephenie Breaking Dawn, 754 p. Little, Brown, 2008.


I just put down Breaking Dawn and want to writ the review ASAP. There will be spoilers, probably, so don't read further if you don't want to read them.

I was afraid that this was going to be one more angst-ridden (but boring) fight between Edward and Jacob up until the day that Bella finally made her choice and took steps one way or the other. I was pleasantly surprised to have the wedding over in the first few chapters and as each new twist and turn in the plot unfolded, it all worked well together and felt effortless. Bella's powers and her determination helped turn her from a kind of clinging whining teenager into a confident woman. Very satisfying! There are about one dozen swears (no "f"), some implied sex (the married kind), and a little violence, so be aware that it is not squeaky clean. But otherwise, I hope your library has plenty of copies on hand when the school year begins!