Thursday, December 29, 2011
By Dandi Daley Mackall
Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. 327 pgs. Teen fiction
Jeremy Long has always been odd. He collects empty jars and hasn't spoken in nearly a decade. But his sister Hope knows that even if some of his actions seem odd, Jeremy isn't crazy. And he certainly isn't a murderer. And yet, he's on trial for murder, and Hope is the only one who believes he's innocent. Determined to prove his innocence, Hope frantically searches for other possible suspects, even as someone is trying to keep her from investigation. As her world is crumbling, Hope finds friendship where she least expected it--with the handsome, popular Chase Wells, son of the local sheriff.
I highly enjoyed this book; I liked the mystery aspect of it, particularly the twist at the end, but the way the characters and relationships were developed is what made it shine. Hope's voice is pitch perfect; her love for her brother is beautifully portrayed without becoming sappy. This is an excellent choice for anyone who is looking for a realistic fiction title.
As an amusing side note, I actually wasn't sure whether or not to read this book; I'm pretty busy right now and needed to return some books to the library without reading them. So...I read the ending to see if I thought I'd like it. I liked the twist, but I also thought maybe I could just skim through the book, rather than reading the whole thing. But then I read a little more of the ending, and realized that there was much more going on that just the twist, so I read the whole book, and yes, even knowing the ending, I really enjoyed the book. I'm definitely glad I didn't return it to the library without reading it.
4.5 stars. There might be a little language (which I clearly didn't notice if it is there, since I can't even remember for sure if it was in there), but otherwise, it's a clean read.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
By Leila Sales
Simon Pulse, 2011. 303 pgs. Teen fiction
For pretty much her entire life, Chelsea has worked at Essex Historical Colonial Village, where she has to dress and act like she lives in colonial times. Although she has at least somewhat enjoyed it in the past, this year, things aren't going so well. For starters, her ex-boyfriend, whom she still has feelings for, has gotten a job there as well. And, every year the teens who work at Essex and those who work at the nearby (as in, across the street) Civil War Reenactment place have an after-hours War, with pranks and such that have a tendency to get a little out of control. Chelsea is supposed to be one of the leaders of Essex's war effort, but that gets a little complicated when she starts to maybe fall for one of the Civil Warriors, which is a definite no-no.
I felt like the War was a little bit over the top (maybe just because I wouldn't invest that much time or energy in that type of pranking) and some of the secondary characters were a little too flat--and annoying--but other than that, I really liked the book. Chelsea was a good narrator, and the historical reenactment theme was a fun twist. There's some language and a little making out (side tangent: it seems like in a LOT of books lately, teens are moving really, really fast with their physical relationships...which is probably realistic to a certain extent, but I can't help but wonder if it's a little blown out of proportion.)
Saturday, December 3, 2011
By Rosemary Clement-Moore
Delacorte Press, 2011. 406 pgs. Teen fiction
Amy Goodnight has always tried to hide the fact that her family has magical abilities, something that isn't easy to do when all the rest of them seem content to tell the whole world exactly what they can do. However, when Amy and her sister Phin are house-sitting for their aunt, things start spiraling out of control, and Amy can't stay away from the magic. First, handsome, irritating, incredibly frustrating next door neighbor Ben McCulloch, whose ranch is being haunted (at least according to rumors) by a mad monk, blames Amy and her family for causing the rumors and all the trouble that comes with it. Then Amy finds that there is indeed a ghost (or maybe more than one), since he starts paying her special visits. Even as she's trying to deny what her talents are, people are getting hurt, and Amy can't help but get involved.
This book was fun from start to finish. Amy is one of those kick-butt spunky narrators that I love, Ben is a cute cowboy, and the other quirky supporting characters are amusing. I sometimes got bogged down in Phin's descriptions of the science behind the paranormal, but that's my only quibble with the book. There's some language and some pretty heavy making out.
Monday, October 31, 2011
By Thanhha Lai
Harper, 2011. 263 pgs. Middle Grade fiction
In 1975, Ha has lived in Vietnam for her entire life, living with three bothersome older brothers, her sad mother, and the shadow of her father, who has been missing in action for nine years. When the opportunity comes for their family to flee the country, they decide to go, only to find that real-life America isn't quite like what they've seen in movies. As a stranger and outsider, Ha faces teasing at school and misses her homeland.
This novel-in-verse is beautifully written and gives readers a wonderful look at the process of leaving a beloved homeland for a strange country is like. I loved Ha--she's spunky and funny and I think Lai captured the emotions of such a turbulent situation perfectly. Just pick the book up; it'll convince you itself.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
By Robison Wells
HarperTeen, 2011. 376 pages. Teen fiction
Benson Fisher is a foster kid who has gotten a scholarship to a boarding school, the Maxfield Academy. However, when he gets there, he finds that everything about the school is seriously wrong. There are no teacher or administrators present and the students are divided into three different gangs who coexist somewhat peacefully, sometimes anyway. The constant threat of detention, which is equated with death, looms over them. While most students seem to accept that they're part of some weird experiment (although they don't really know what's going on), but Benson isn't willing to stick around. He's desperate to escape and wants to convince the others to escape as well..but he soon finds that he has no idea who he can trust.
This book started off pretty well; readers are drawn in with Benson, trying to figure out what the heck is going on and why--why are kids at a school with no teachers, why do they have to play weird paintball games, and what happens to the students who disappear? However, as interesting as the book is, the ending kinda throws a wrench in it. Things finally start to really unfold in about the hundred pages, but a lot of that is actually slow parts, and the real action and real answers come in the last thirty pages. It happens too quickly, it's really confusing trying to figure out who is on what side, and the book is left on a huge cliffhanger. (Okay, the cliffhanger might not bother some readers, but I personally want some sense of what's going on...particularly since I'll be waiting at least a year for them to publish the next book.) So, while it's interesting and entertaining, I think Wells has set himself on a very dangerous edge here--not enough questions were answered in this book, and the second book in a series tends to be the worst...so if he doesn't deliver a home run with the second book, it's going to be hard to convince readers to stick with it. The second book will really need to give a lot of answers and they have to come a lot faster--not in the last thirty pages of the book.
3.5 stars...but that's subject to change depending on what happens with the next book.
Mostly a clean read (there's some language, but nothing of the super harsh variety).
Good choice for teen guys.
Monday, October 10, 2011
By Brian Selznick
Scholastic Press, 2011. 637 pgs. Middle Grade fiction
In 1927, Rose, who is deaf, longs for a life beyond her home, where she spends her time collecting pictures of a famous actress. Fifty years later, twelve-year-old Ben, whose mother has recently died, loses his hearing and finds that the father he never met may be living in New York City, so he runs away from home to find him. In New York, he meets Jamie, a boy his age who spends his time at the American Museum of Natural History. Ben, fascinated by the museum, comes to find that it might reveal the secret of his father's identity.
Ben's and Rose's stories are told alternately throughout the book, Ben's in words and Rose's in pictures, and then they intertwine at the end. The artwork is stunning, and I liked the way the stories came together....although I don't know that I actually would have liked the book as a child. I think it's one that advanced readers or those interested in art will like. The art is kind of what sold it for me; the text didn't pull me in as much.
3 stars. Clean read.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
By Andy Lane
Macmillan, 2011. 6 CDs (approx. 7 hours). Middle Grade/teen fiction
Sherlock Holmes has to spend his school holiday living with an aunt and uncle he's never met before, and he isn't excited about the prospect. However, once there, things turn out to be more interesting than he'd thought. Two people die from what is suspected to be a plague, but there are some facts that just don't add up, such as why both bodies seemed to have a mysterious cloud float away from them after the death. As Sherlock, his friend Matty and his tutor Amyus Crowe, set out to figure out what is going on, Sherlock finds that he just might be the next one to be killed off.
I liked this young Sherlock Holmes book; watching Sherlock's process of using logic and finding facts to form conclusions was intriguing. I think the plot might appeal to younger readers, but at the same time, Sherlock's interest in Amyus Crowe's daughter (particularly when he's checking out her body, in her tight riding britches and shirt), might have some parents of younger readers objecting to the content. I very much enjoyed the audio version; the reader was good both in voice and in pace.
By Eugene Yelchin
Henry Holt and Company, 2011. 154 pgs. Middle Grade fiction
Growing up in Stalin's Russia, Sasha Zaichik can't wait to join the Young Pioneers, the Communist group for youth. He's known all the laws and rules of being a good Communist since he was a child, he loves Stalin, and he wants to grow up to be a hero like his father, a good, good Communist. However, on the eve of the ceremony when he'll finally join the Pioneers, Sasha's father is arrested. Certain there must be a mistake and that when Stalin finds out, he'll free his father, Sasha stills plans to join the Pioneers. However, this incident sets in motion a series of events that shows Sasha that perhaps Stalin and Communism are the idols and ideals he wants to uphold anymore.
This is a quick read (I read it in 30 minutes), but it's a great overview into Stalinist Russia, and how the people lived in fear and oppression, and that no one was safe. With black and white illustrations throughout, this is historical fiction that could appeal to even reluctant readers and the themes make it an excellent choice for classroom discussions.
4 stars. Clean read.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
By Sarah M. Eden
Covenant Communications, 2011. 252 pgs. Romance
Crispin Handle, Lord Carvatt, is not at all impressed with England's society ladies, and particularly not the bothersome Miss Bower, who seems determined to force him to court her. To settle the matter once and for all, he seizes a serving woman and kisses her quite soundly. However, she isn't a servant at all, and her formidable and abusive uncle insists that Crispin do the gentlemanly thing and marry her--immediately. And so, Crispin finds himself married to Catherine Thorndale, at least until he can negotiate an annulment. However, knowing that both their reputations will suffer, and she will likely be ruined, Crispin isn't so sure that annulment is a good option. However, a loveless marriage is hardly a better answer, is it?
I thoroughly enjoyed this Regency romance. I liked the witty banter between Crispin and Catherine and their developing romance.This is a gentle read and one that can be read it one sitting. I can't quite put my finger on what I liked so much about it, but I really liked it and look forward to reading more from Sarah Eden.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
By Joseph Bruchac
Tu Books, 2011. 377 pgs. Teen fiction
Luke King has always been different—how could he not be when he’s grown up with a CIA agent for a father? Now, though, his mother has died and he and his father are living in a trailer, Luke attending the local high school and his father escaping his pain with drugs and alcohol. Add in the fact that Luke seems to just kill all modern electronic devices (they shut down when he’s around) and the wolf mark on his left arm, and he’s pretty different. And soon, his life becomes not only different but dangerous. First, there are the seven members of the Sunglass Mafia (Russian students living in Luke’s town), who seem to have some special skills and are keeping a close watch on Luke. Then his father goes missing, and Luke finds that he isn’t as human as he’s always believed himself to be. Now, with his father’s life on the line and Luke the next target, he has to figure out how to control the wolf within, save his family, uncover the secret plot of those who are after him, and maybe, if he can swing it, take the girl he’s had a crush on for the past couple years for a motorcycle ride.
I liked Luke’s story; it’s adventurous and interesting, but at the same time, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was reading a Twilight read-alike for guys. (I mean, come on--a motorcyle-loving werewolf? Mysterious elite students who happen to be somewhat vampire-ish?) There was more action and less focus on the love story, but still, it was a little to Twilight-y for me to completely love it. Overall, though, it’s fun and I always like how Bruchac incorporates American Indian and other cultures.
3.5 stars. A little bit of innuendo and language.
By Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Brilliance Audio, 2008. 7 hours. Teen fiction
Princess Benevolence, or Ben for short, is the niece of the king, and as he and his wife have not produced an heir, she, after her father, is next in line for the throne. When Ben’s mother and uncle are killed and her father lost after a brutal attack, Ben is set to be her country’s next leader. Her aunt, the Queen Sophia, rules as regent until Ben reaches her majority, and seems cruel, evil, and utterly disappointed with Ben’s failures to act as Sophia sees is becoming for her country’s next queen. When she is locked in a tower, Ben finds an entrance to a room where she learns magic, and, once she has mastered a few spells, she attempts to save her kingdom from their neighboring kingdom, a ruthless country that has always wanted their land.
I listened to the CD version, read by the author, and while I didn’t always like her reading of it, it was satisfactory. I like how Ben is not the typical princess—she’s chubby, doesn’t like needlework or courtly duties, and has grown up somewhat distance from castle life. I didn’t necessarily find the romantic aspect of the story believable (I wasn’t sold on Ben’s attraction to her suitor, nor his for her), but as far as fairy tales go, it was enjoyable.
3.5 stars. Clean read.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
By Susane Colasanti
Viking, 2011. 241 pgs. Teen fiction
Scott Abrams is the love of Brooke's life. She knows it. But he's moving to NYC and they've never really spoken. So Brooke moves to NYC to live with her dad, runs into Scott at her new school, and vows that she's going to tell him how she feels. However, things are a little more complicated than she anticipated, since Scott has a girlfriend (at least kind of) and Brooke's new friends and teachers help push her to reach her potential, making her realize that maybe she wants more than what she originally thought.
I wasn't quite sold on some aspects of this book--including moving to NYC for a boy and just coincidentally ending up living in the same neighborhood and attending the same school--but when I suspended disbelief, I did find it to be an enjoyable read. I enjoyed seeing Brooke's growth, although was slightly irritated by her lack of growth in certain areas (such as thinking her failing friendships with the friends she left behind when she moved was all their fault, not hers. For example, on pg. 117, she complains, when April tells her she takes her genius brain for granted, "Unbelievable. April is one of them and I didn't even know it." Later, on pg. 212, she says she's let April go; maybe April will want to be friends again someday but there's nothing she can do to force it. On pg. 215, she feels bad that she never thought about a guy who liked her's feelings. And yet, she never seem to think about April's feelings...even though April is right. She DID waste her talent. And she could do something about their friendship by actually acknowledging that, for starters.). Overall, this is a better than average book, and clean, too.
3.5 stars. Clean Read.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
By Markus Zusak
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2011. 499 pgs. Teen fiction
This is a 3-in-1 version of Markus Zusak's earliest works, The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, and Getting the Girl.
In The Underdog, we meet Cameron Wolfe and his older brother Ruben, lovable losers living in Australia, doing not much more than disappointing their parents and older siblings, and even themselves, as they can't manage to follow through on any of their mischievous plans.
In Fighting Ruben Wolfe, the two brothers are offered a chance to be amateur boxers and they both agree, although Ruben is the better fighter. Cameron, still aching to become something more, doesn't know if he'll ever be able to get out of his brother's shadow.
In Getting the Girl, Cameron, who has always longed for love, finally finds it--with Ruben's ex-girlfriend, something that forces Cameron to figure out who he is and what he's willing to fight for.
Ah, Cameron. He's a doll of a narrator. I love getting to know him and watching this teenager find himself and realize that he isn't a loser, that he's more than just a poor, dirty nobody. As can be expected of any of Zusak's writings, you just get carried away in the style and the word choices. The books do get a little raunchy, but there's also that poetic sort of prose that makes Zusak so delightful.
Friday, September 16, 2011
By Marc Aronson
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011. 134 pgs. Middle grade/Teen Nonfiction
On August 5, 2010, a collapse in the San José mine in Chile trapped thirty-three miners underground, attracting the world's attention. For the next seventeen days, drillers and mining experts from around the world worked with native Chileans to try to reach the miners and determine if anyone had survived. Miraculously, they all had, but it took several more weeks, and more international assistance, to extract the miners from 2,300 feet below the earth.
Aronson's book is interesting in that it focuses not so much on the miners and their families but on the people who were anxiously trying to get them out--from the nine drill teams working to establish first contact, to the three teams that later were working toward getting the miners out. At the beginning, Aronson also provides some background theories about the tectonic plates and how the Chile is earthquake prone, as well as information about mining, venturing off into a discussion about Hephaestus and how, like the Greek god, miners are often under-respected. I enjoyed the background information about Chile and mining; the Greek tangent didn't quite work for me. Overall, though, I liked this concise account of what happened in Chile and the people who worked to make rescue possible.
3.5 stars. Clean read.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
By Emma Donoghue
Little, Brown and Company, 2010. 321 pgs. Adult fiction
For his entire life, five-year-old Jack has lived in Room with Ma. They don't have much--Bed, Wardrobe, Table, Rug, 5 books, and little else. But for Jack it's enough. The only bad thing is that sometimes Old Nick comes in, punching in his special number in the keypad to unlock the door, and Ma doesn't like him, and doesn't like Jack being anywhere near him. Then Ma starts "unlying"--telling him that the things he sees on TV aren't just pretend and there's a whole world out there and she used to live in it until Old Nick stole her. Now she says they need to get out, and Jack has to help her make that happen.
This book is heartbreaking and disturbing and intensely thought-provoking. AHHHHHHHHHHH! (Trust me, you will need to vent somehow after you read this book; it's not an easy read by any means.) Jack is a precocious and unforgettable narrator, and it's interesting to see first Room and then Outside through his eyes. The book also provides a lot of food for thought about human nature, motherhood, basic needs, and more. Pretty much the only thing that I didn't like about the book were the very frequent references to breastfeeding--Jack has never been weaned and asks for "some" and describes when he has "lots" and how sometimes it's "creamy." Interestingly enough, there's a passage where the mother is doing a TV interview and the TV host says that it might startle viewers to know that she still breastfeeds Jack, to which Ma gives a profound response.
"The woman stares at her.
"'In this whole story, that's the shocking detail?'"
So, feeling slightly chastened, I wondered why it's so disturbing for me, and I think mainly it stems from the fact that Jack's describing it--I don't want to hear about it being creamy or whatever...
So, I think I'm not alone in the descriptions of the breastfeeding being somewhat weird (and I don't totally understand why it continues--why didn't she wean him, especially if she was planning on escaping and knew they'd be back in the world? Granted, maybe the actual plan to escape came suddenly, but it's something she'd always wanted to do, so I'd think she'd be a little more prepared.)
Anyway, breastfeeding tangent aside, this is a gripping story, and I can't really do it justice in describing it, so just do yourself a favor and check it out.
4 stars. Pretty clean.
Friday, September 9, 2011
By Holly Goldberg Sloan
Little, Brown and Company, 2011. 392 pgs. Teen fiction
When Emily Bell's father makes her sing a solo of "I'll Be There" in church, it sets off a chain of events that changes her whole life. Emily doesn't have a good singing voice and doesn't want to sing the solo; during it, she focuses on the very back of the church, or more specifically, the boy sitting in the back of the church. Sam likes music and has attended church that day to hear the music. When an embarrassed Emily runs out after her performance, he follows. But their romance isn't easy, though in some ways it's completely simple. Sam's crazy criminal of a father has taken him and his unhealthy younger brother Riddle all over the country, stealing and lying everywhere he goes. Sam and Riddle are just trying to survive, and they've never connected with anyone before. That changes with Emily, but all too soon, their father creates problems that leave them fighting to stay alive.
This was a completely gripping story. I was so anxious, waiting to see how things would turn out for Sam, Riddle and Emily. I didn't necessarily care for the side story of Bobby Ellis, a boy who is obsessed with Emily, but I did appreciate the way the author did tie the details together. (So, Bobby was a necessary, if somewhat annoying, part of the story.) The writing style is sort of lyrical, lulling you in further and further as the chain of events unfold. It's a little bit different--but I liked it a lot.
4.5 stars. A very little bit of language.
Friday, September 2, 2011
By Joseph Bruchac
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2011. 346 pgs. Teen fiction
Many years before, Rashko's ancestor, Pavol was the sole survivor when his family was killed by an evil sorcerer. Pavol, keeping his identity a secret, trained intensely to be able to defeat the sorcerer, but he acted the part of a fool to keep himself nonthreatening. After his success, his kingdom had been left alone for years, living in peace. Now, however, Rashko's parents, who are pretty foolish themselves, mysteriously disappear, and Rashko is left with his foolish older brother Paulek to protect their home from the dark force advancing toward them. Rashko knows his brother has a good heart, but he seems taken in by their sudden "guests," while Rashko recognizes that they have only evil in mind. Although Rashko is wise, he doesn't know if he will be enough to save his family and his home.
Drawing on Slovakian culture, Bruchac has created a warm fantasy world. With adventure, a tiny (really, really tiny) hint of romance, humor, and the interweaving of Rashko's and Pavol's stories, this book is a lot of fun to read. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to fans of The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner.
4 stars. Clean read.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
By Emily Wing Smith
Dutton Books, 2011. 296 pgs. Young Adult
When Joy moved to Haven, Utah, she quickly started dating Zan, who was cooler than everyone else there: he was so "above" the silly Mormon or Latter-day Saint (LDS) culture, with the Sprite drinking and Disney-movie-watching-parties and "Modest is Hottest" t-shirts, and Mormons in general, since they aren't concerned about real issues and think they're better than everyone else. In Zan, Joy finally felt like she was somebody, but when he completed his GED and took off to California to go to college, Joy's world fell apart. Now she's desperate to get "closure" (which really means she's desperate to get Zan back), and she convinces Zan's friend Noah to drive her to California, even though she can't stand, since he's king of the Soccer Lovin' Kids--so cool and handsome he can even make being a Mormon okay. They confront Zan, and Joy has to realize what that maybe she hasn’t been seeing things clearly.
I'll start of my review with a disclaimer: I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a Mormon), so maybe I'm more sensitive than a lot of readers would be. But, as a member of the group being mocked here, I also feel like I have every right to be sensitive about how my religious group is being represented.
Joy's attitude can be really hard to take: even though she is LDS, she's so disdainful towards Haven (from the library, to the school, to the people) and toward Mormon culture (she likes the belief, just not the culture), and even toward her friends. For example, she says of her best friend, “If Zan is the world’s biggest cliché, then Mattia is Haven’s biggest cliché. She’s smart but not too smart, peppy but not too peppy, pretty but not too pretty. She’ll go to Brigham Young University like forty percent of our class, she’ll major in psychology (a subject she’s been obsessed with for as long as I’ve known her), and she’ll meet the perfect recently returned missionary. They’ll get married, have 3.5 children, and get family pictures taken up the canyon every autumn. It’s so easy for people like her” (p. 51). One of the things she doesn’t like about Noah and his friends is that they won’t have girlfriends before they go on their missions—and it also bothers her that he’s nice to everyone. (Yeah, what a rotten guy, Noah.) Joy DOES come to realize that she’s been a jerk (although I would have liked to see a little bit more realization and remorse), and some of it stems from her own insecurities. However, even after she has started to have some sense of her own snobbery, she still is very stereotypical in her assumptions about people—for example, she says, “Even though Noah hasn’t told me much about his family, I can still imagine them in a silver minivan, the girls dressed up like Cinderella and Snow White, watching Aladdin on DVD” (p.239-240). Okay, maybe that’s not the worst thing to assume about a Mormon family, but still, it’s like she’s so wrapped up in her ideas of what the quaint little Mormon life is like that she doesn’t entertain the possibility that Noah’s life could be any different. (I don’t think Joy, at least on the pages, even knows if his parents are still married, or both alive, or anything. So she might want to be a little more cautious in her assumptions, even if she thinks it’s a nice one, since she’s been so badly misjudging everyone all along…). And, even with her remorse, she still can’t put aside her own ideas enough to respect Noah’s: at the end, their car breaks down in Vegas, they go to a motel and can only afford one room, and all that’s available is one with a double bed. Yeah, sleeping together is a no-no in Mormon culture, and even though Joy is certain nothing will happen (and it’s doesn’t), she still tells Noah, even though he’s clearly uncomfortable, that it’s okay for them to share a bed, which to me, especially since she has a track record of thinking she’s better than everyone around her, shows that she still thinks her ideas are better. Why can’t she just be respectful of Noah’s standards and not push the limits?
So, yes, Joy does come to realize that she’s not better than anyone and that no one is better than anyone, but I have to say, that for me, the realization might have been too little, too late. Joy’s attitude made it hard to be sympathetic, which in turn makes it hard to care what happens to her.
I don't know, maybe I'm just grumpy. Maybe I didn't read it the way the author intended (Tangent: I'm not so sure an author can say a book should be a read a certain way, since everyone comes at a book with his or her own life experiences and opinions and such; it might be too much for any author to think that everyone's just going to be able to read a book the way that he/she "intended".), but overall, I think the book made me sad: sad to see my culture and people mocked, and even with Joy's (kinda) change of heart, I didn't feel like it fully repaired the damage it did. You know what? It's okay to like Sprite, it's okay to have Disney parties rather than drug and alcohol induced parties, and there are LOTS of Mormons who care about real issues and who DON'T think they're better than everyone...and I hope readers realize that, but I'm not sure the author really conveyed that strongly enough.
So...I don't think I'll give this book a rating. Maybe I'm overly sensitive; maybe the author would think this review is a joke. I don't know. But I'm not sure I can fairly rate it, so I won't.
Not quite a 100% clean read: it says the "h" word a couple of times, and, as mentioned, Joy and Noah do end up in the same bed (although he leaves and sleeps on the floor).
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
By Ally Condie
Nov. 2011. 367 pgs. Teen fiction (I read the ARC)
Cassia finds a way to get to the Outer Provinces, where she is intent on finding Ky, despite the fact that he's been given a work assignment that is almost certain to kill him. However, he manages to escape into the Craving, a series of canyons that could lead to freedom. Ky is just as set on finding a way to get back to Cassia. However, when the two mind each, Ky realizes that Cassia has found out about the Rising, a rebellion against their Society--something Ky doesn't want to be a part of and would like to keep Cassia out of as well.
I think fans of Matched will like Crossed as well. It can be a bit slow; there's a LOT of time spent in the canyons, both before and after Ky and Cassia are reunited--and they don't find each other until over halfway through the book, so that made things seem a little slow as well. I didn't necessarily love the first book, and again, this one was just likeable for me, but I think fans will enjoy it--and I might like it better if I weren't totally burned out on dystopias and love triangles.
3 stars. Clean read.
Monday, August 29, 2011
By Amy ClipstonZondervan, 2011. 278 pgs. Teen fiction
Summary:Emily’s mother died from cancer and the medical bills ended up costing her and her father their home and his business. Left with little to their name, they move in with Emily’s aunt Darlene and her family, including her cousin who is everything Emily isn’t. Emily just wants to work on cars—her favorite hobby—but she feels pressured by her family to be something she’s not. While the boy next door, Zander, proves to be a good friend, Emily is frustrated by his deep faith; since her mother died, she hasn’t been able to pray or find any solace and she doesn’t want anyone to preach to her.
Review:I enjoyed reading about Emily’s struggle to re-find her faith; I think her feelings are realistically portrayed. I also enjoyed watching her developing friendship with Zander. My only complaint was that sometimes the language didn’t seem fitting for a teenager; there were places where it was oddly formal. Overall, though, this is a good choice for those looking for Christian fiction.
3 stars. Clean read.
Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto
By Paul B. JaneczkoCandlewick Press, 2011. 102 pgs. Poetry
Summary and Review:This is a collection of brief poems that describes how the Nazis herded Jews into the Terezin ghetto before shipping them off to the death camps. The poems show the view point of the Jews, as well as the SS guards and the non-Jewish people who were removed from their homes in order to build the ghetto. It’s a slim collection of poems, but it’s definitely moving, showing lost love, broken lives, and more.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
As a guide, this is how I'm going to define the stars:
1: didn't like it
2: it was okay
3: liked it
4: really liked
Friday, August 19, 2011
By Sheila Welch
Namelos, 2011. 170 pgs. Middle Grade fiction
As T.J. sits in the hospital waiting room, anxious for news about his sister Angela, who has suffered a fall, he reflects on their life. "Now" they are adjusting to being recently adopted and fitting in with their new parents, but "then," they lived with their mother and her series of boyfriends, with T.J. acting much more like an adult than his mother as he tried to keep himself and his sister safe. As he reflects on his life and worries about his sister, T.J. comes to realize what he wants from life.
This is a touching, thought-provoking story. Told alternately between "now" and "then," it takes readers through the children's lives, as they craved their mother's love and attention but could never quite rely on her, and their struggles to fit into a new family. While it deals with difficult topics, such as abandonment and neglect, it does so in a gentle, caring way that invites readers to join T.J. on his emotional journey.
3.5 stars. Has a little bit of language, but of the milder variety.
By Misty Moncur
Bonneville Books, 2011. 201 pgs. Teen fiction
Although Keturah is of marrying age, she has no intention of getting married yet. Instead, she wants to join her brothers and the other young men of their people as they form a rag-tag army and prepare to battle their enemies. Ezekiel, the boy who has been her friend all her life, wants Keturah to accept his offer of betrothal, and while she thinks she loves him, she can't help the rising feelings she has for Gideon, the only man who seems willing to accept her need to be a soldier.
This was an exciting adventure, the first book in a new series, and overall I enjoyed it and I think other readers will, too. It's fast-paced and Keturah is a spunky character. I was a little put off by the use of modern slang in a historical fiction novel. (Duh, awesome, etc. just don't strike me as being a big part of the vocab before Christ...granted, I don't know what would have been, but it was a bit jarring.) I also got a little frustrated with Keturah going so far as to tell Zeke she loves him (multiple times) but all the while obviously being attracted to Gideon. It honestly made me frustrated with her; I can be sympathetic to her being conflicted about her feelings, but if she KNOWS she's conflicted (and she should, or she's kinda dumb), then she shouldn't tell Zeke she loves him. Also, I didn't feel like her relationship with Zeke was developed enough to really make me take her feelings for him seriously; we see a lot of him being bossy or opposing her (and some good stuff, too), but mainly it felt like the author TOLD the reader that there were feelings there, rather than actually showing it. All in all, though, I was intrigued by the book and look forward to the rest of the series.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Jane Austen in Scarsdale
By Paula Marantz CohenSt. Martin's Press, 2006. 275 pgs. Adult Fiction
In this modern retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion, Anne Ehrlich is a high school guidance counselor who, thirteen years before, was persuaded by her grandmother that her boyfriend Ben wasn't a good choice for her. She's never been able to forget about him, and when his nephew transfer to Anne's school, she finds herself face to face with Ben once again--and finds that her feelings for him have never died. However, Ben has a fiancé, and Anne is certain he won't forgive her for how things ended between them.
My opinion:This is a clean read and a fun modern version of Persuasion. Even those who aren't familiar with the original will still enjoy the plot line.It's an easy, breezy read that's perfect for an afternoon of light reading.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
By Cricket Rumley
Egmont, 2011. 298 pgs. Teen fiction
Troublemaker Jane isn't exactly the typical participant in Bienville, Alabama's Magnolia Maid Pageant, but since her beloved grandmother asks her to try it and Jane is trying to connect to her deceased mother (the Magnolia Maid queen in her day), Jane gives it a go, and surprisingly, is one of the finalists. That means she has to join four other girls in being a true Southern belle, complete with a hoopskirt and sweet Southern manners. However, bickering between the girls, plus the barriers Jane has put up around herself due to a painful past, make it even more difficult than Jane anticipated.
This a fun, fluffy read, good for a lazy afternoon. At the same time, it has some deeper and more serious aspects, such as lessons about friendship and dealing with family disappointments.
3 stars. Pretty frequent examples of underage drinking, but no sexuality and only minor language.
Friday, August 12, 2011
By Heather Dixon
Random House/Listening Library, 2011. 10 sound discs (ca. 71 min. each). Teen fiction
When the queen dies, the king puts the entire household into mourning. His twelve daughters, who love to dance, are determined to find a way to keep dancing, and magic allows them a way. They find a secret passage to a forest where they can dance. However, the Keeper there seems to have dark secrets, and Azalea, the oldest of the princesses, must find a way to free her family from his grasp before it's too late.
I like the setting and the world described in this story, as well as the language (although I got really, really tired of the words skirts, crinolines, and cravat by the end of the book), but I had a harder time with the plot and the characters. I guess my main problem is that I was never really sold on the girls' need to dance. Keeper is creepy, and I don't understand why they ignored that to go dancing. Maybe someone who dances would understand, and I don't, but honestly, where's their sense of self-preservation? Or common sense? Or any inkling that they might be in danger? Since I didn't buy the need to dance, that made it hard for me to get into the rest of the story, because (for a disbelieving reader like me), they either seem really dumb (which doesn't endear them to me) or really young (which makes it hard to accept that the three oldest have romantic entanglements, because they seem too young and therefore the gentlemen pursuing them seem icky for pursuing them and gives the reader an unsettled feeling during the reading). I wonder if I would have liked the book better than the sound recording; although the narrator was good, the sheer time it takes to listen to a book (instead of being able to breeze through reading it in a matter of hours) gave me lots of time to notice and ponder things I didn't like, whereas if I'd read it, maybe I would have been more swept into the story.
3 stars. Clean read.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
By Kerstin Gier
Henry Holt and Company, 2011. 330 pgs. Teen fiction
Gwen's family has a history of time traveling, and everyone thinks that her cousin Charlotte will be the next time travel, but it turns out to be Gwen instead. Charlotte, in anticipation of her role, has been given all sorts of training to help her blend in when she visits the past as well as an introduction to the secret society that protects the secret of their time travel and the machine that lets them control where they travel. Gwen doesn't have that training and is somewhat at a loss as to what is expected of her. She has a time-travel companion, handsome Gideon, who quickly makes it clear that Gwen is not his type and pretty much beneath his notice, and her mother warns her not to trust anyone, so Gwen is pretty confused as to what's going on and who is even telling the truth.
This is an exciting start to a new series; I like the time-traveling elements (although, I'm not quite sure I understand all of it, so I hope Gwen gets enlightened a little more in the next book so I can understand more as well), and Gwen is a good protagonist. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.
4.5 stars. A really, really little bit of language, but otherwise, this one's clean.
Friday, August 5, 2011
By Jane Austen
Oxford University Press, 2004. 249 pgs. Adult Fiction
Eight years ago, Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth fell in love, but Anne's father, a vain, shallow man who is overly hung up on appearances, money, connections and social class, won't approve the marriage. Anne's deceased mother's closest friend also discourages the match, and Anne is persuaded to end their engagement. Now, the Elliots are running up debts and have to economize; they rent out their estate to the Crofts--Captain Wentworth's brother-in-law and sister--and Captain Wentworth, recently returned from sea and now distinguished and wealthy, comes to visit. He and Anne barely speak, neither acknowledging their previous engagement. Captain Wentworth seems to be taken with another young lady in the neighborhood, and soon, Anne realizes her true feelings for him.
I'm not sure why I never bothered to read this book before; I enjoy Jane Austen, and I liked this one, although not as much as some of her others. Still, I like the idea of second chances and both Anne and Captain Wentworth are likable, although I wish we got to see a little deeper into both of them. Still, I'm not sure you can go wrong with Jane Austen.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
By Veronica Roth
Katherine Tegen Books, 2011. 487 pgs. Teen fiction
Chicago is divided into five factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent). Each faction exemplifies the behaviors and attitudes that they think will most benefit the world and combat the problems of human nature. As teens reach a certain age, they are given an aptitude test that tells them which attributes they have, followed by a ceremony where they choose which group to remain with for the rest of their lives. Most people have one dominant attribute, but Beatrice Prior, who has been raised by her Abnegation parents and community, isn't sure she's selfless enough to stay with that faction. When her aptitude tests reveals that she has multiple dominant attributes, meaning she is divergent, she must choose which faction to join--as well as hide the fact that she's divergent, as she's been warned that her life depends on no one finding out her secret. Tris makes her choice, changing her name along with her alliances, and as she trains for her new faction, she struggles to know who to trust and starts to fall in love but also realizes that everything could be ripped away but a group that is ready to overthrow their way of life.
Some books just hook you, and some don't. For me, this one definitely did. I think this has the potential to be the new Hunger Games--the trilogy that everyone has to read and can't stop thinking about. With an intriguing dystopian world, engaging characters, action, adventure, romance, and more, there's not much that this book doesn't have. I will say that I thought the end of the book, where we see the conflict really unfolding, as the rebel group begins rolling out their plans, went by to quickly for me and was actually too easily resolved. Obviously, there's going to be a lot more going on in the next books, but I would have liked to see a little more in this one, as it all plays out in a matter of a few hours. On the other hand, Tris's training and personal growth and conflicts were explored in much more detail and over time, so the juxtaposition just made the larger, societal conflict seem glossed over. Still, I'm hooked, and I can't wait to see what happens next! A great choice for anyone who liked The Hunger Games, dystopia, romance, action, or kick-butt characters.
4.5 stars. As far as language goes, I think this one's pretty clean. There's a lot of violence, though. Sexuality is minimal; there's some kissing, a little sexual tension, and a discussion of how two characters might possibly at some point in the future if they're ready, sleep together.
P.S. (3/26/12) I listened to the audio version of this book last week. I was a little apprehensive at first, since I know a bad narrator can ruin a good book, but , I was quite satisfied with the narrator. Very well done.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
By Mitchell Zuckoff
HarperCollins, 2011. 384 pgs. Adult Nonfiction
In May of 1945, a popular activity at the U.S. Army base in Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, was taking flights to see "Shangri-La," a remote part of the island, completely isolated, surround by mountains and rain forests, with thousands of native inhabitants. Although others had completed this trip, for one group, it didn't turn out so well. When their plane crashed, twenty-one soldiers and WACs died--but three survived. Margaret Hastings and Kenneth Decker, both badly wounded in the crash, and John McCollum (whose twin died in the crash) lived but they were in a remote area of the world, wondering if the natives were cannibalistic, if the Army would be able to evacuate them, and if gangrene would lead to emergency amputation. The Army was able to parachute medics and other soldiers in to help the survivors, but they still didn't know how to get them out.
This is an engaging true story, which, although published for adults, would likely appeal to teen readers interested in WWII and survival stories. (I will say, though, there are pictures of the native men, who traditionally wore penis gourds and little else; some readers might not want to skip the photos.) The details about the survivors as well as the natives are interesting; the rescue was a little less dramatic than what I thought it would be, based on both the dust jacket and the chapters leading up to it, but still, it moves well and is an engaging piece of nonfiction.
Sunday, July 31, 2011
By Janette Rallison
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2009. 264 pgs. Teen fiction
Annika's younger brother Jeremy has to have surgery to have a brain tumor removed, and Annika convinces him that she has a genie that will grant him two wishes beforehand, the first being whatever he wants and the second being that everything will work out for the surgery. She think his first wish will be for a Teen Robin Hood action hero, which she's managed to buy, and that when he gets that, it'll convince him that the wish for a successful surgery will work, too, and the power of positive thinking will ultimately make everything okay. Her plans go a little haywire, though, when instead of asking for the action hero he's been obsessing over, Jeremy wishes that Robin Hood will come to teach him how to shoot a bow. Annika has to figure out how to meet Steve Raleigh, the actor who plays Robin Hood, and convince him to come meet her brother, all in a matter of days.
This book is sad and sweet and funny all at once. While readers have to suspend disbelief a little to believe Annika's antics and attempts to meet Steve Raleigh, no one would have trouble believing that she loves her little brother enough to resort to desperate measures to help him. While she can be a little bit grating to the nerves, she's a realistic character. Steve's a cutie, and Jeremy pretty much steals the show.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
By Ashley Hope Perez
Carolrhoda LAB, 2011. 234 pgs. Teen fiction
Marisa wants to graduate high school, get accepted to UT-Austin's engineering program, and get out on with having a life of her own. However, her parents have very different expectations for her; neither of them even went to high school, let alone graduated, so they don't understand her need for education. They expect her to be a willing helper in their family by cooking, baby-sitting her niece, and working as many hours as possible at her part-time job to help support the family. Marisa's best friend, boyfriend, and favorite teacher tell her she needs to work for her dreams, but Marisa doesn't know how she can if it comes at the expense of her family, especially her adorable niece who needs all the attention she can get.
This was a gripping book; I was pulled into Marisa's struggles, charmed by her boyfriend, and frustrated by her family. This realistic, intense story is one that many teen readers will enjoy. (As a small side tangent, though, I have to say one scene is really bothering me; when Marisa's dad gets upset about Marisa being out with her friends, Marisa's best friend--also Latina--explains that it's different for her, since her mom is Cubana and not Mexican and doesn't let her dad push her around. That's a paraphrase, but it illustrates the point. Anyway, I just felt like that was stereotyping Mexican men and women, and while the stereotype might be true in a lot of cases, I think it particularly bothered me because we don't get a whole lot of literature that take us beyond that stereotype...and I'd like to see that.)
Friday, July 29, 2011
By Patricia McCormick
Push, 2000. 151 pgs. Teen fiction
Thirteen-year-old Callie is in a treatment facility (nicknamed Sick Minds by the patients) because she's a cutter. Callie won't speak--not in group therapy, not in her one-on-one sessions with her counselor, not even during recreation times. But there comes a point where if Callie wants to heal, she'll have to speak up.
I read this book in one sitting. I was just really drawn into the story and Callie's struggle, trying to understand where she was coming from and why she would want to do something like cut herself. It's an engaging story on an important topic, and it's really well-done.
4 stars. Clean read.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
By Richard Peck
Dial Books, 2003. 164 pgs. Teen fiction
Just at the outbreak of the Civil War, two girls, Delphine and Calinda, arrive in Grand Tower, just across the river into Northern territory. Tilly and her family take the two girls in, despite the fact that they are Southern and Calinda is black. They stir up the Pruitt family and the town itself. And soon, Tilly's twin brother heads off to war and their mother sends Tilly to get him back.
This is short book, but it's jam-packed with good things. There are secrets, family relationships, and insights into life in rural Illinois at the outbreak of the Civil War. Wrapped into Richard Peck's storytelling, there's not a single wasted word.
3.5 stars. Clean read.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
By Neal Shusterman
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2007. 335 pgs. Teen fiction
A couple generations in the future, a war has been fought over whether abortion is acceptable or not, and unexpected compromise has been reached: babies can't be aborted but when a child is between the ages of 13 and 18, parents can choose to have them unwound, which is the process of harvesting all of their parts and transplanting them to other humans in need of those parts. Connor's parents choose to have him unwound because of his behavior; Risa is an orphan who is deemed as not quite good enough to be allowed to continue existing, and Lev is a tithe, being unwound because of his family's religious beliefs. The three teens cross paths, and soon, they're trying to figure out how to survive in a world that says they don't deserve to live.
Ah! Why did I not read this book 4 years ago when it came out? I don't know, but I'm glad I finally got around to it! I really, really liked this book (which sounds funny to say...how can you like about about unwinding people, right?). It's thought-provoking, it's edgy, it's emotional, it has great characters (I loved Connor and Risa, and Lev is a good secondary character.), and it says a lot about how we value life. From the first page, I was hooked. I love the fact that this isn't just a book about an issue; it has real, well-developed characters and while it makes a statement, it also makes you care about the people in the story.
4.5 stars. Clean read (I think...maybe there's a little language...and there it's implied that two characters might like to go past kissing but they don't.)
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Eona: The Last Dragoneye
By Allison GoodmanViking, 2011. 637 pgs. Teen fiction
Summary:In this sequel to Eon, Eona and Lord Ido are the only two dragoneyes left alive, which means they are also the kingdom's only hope against Sethon, who, after slaughtering most of his family, has made himself emperor. Ido has been captured by Sethon; Eona has escaped to find Kygo, the true heir, but she is still untrained and doesn't know how to use her power, and she's discovering things both about her ancestors and herself that frighten her. While Kygo trusts her enough to make her his highest advisor, others are wary of her and even Kygo's feelings seem mixed. Eona must figure out how to control her power and how to even trust herself to make the right choices if Kygo has any chance of defeating Sethon and restoring peace to the kingdom.
Review:Readers will be drawn once again into the Empire of the Celestial Dragons. Eona's internal struggles (including what her morals are, how she's willing to use her power, who she trusts and even who she's attracted to) are well-portrayed and make her into a round, but not always likable, character. Fans of Eon will like the conclusion; those who haven't read Eon will definitely need to read it first or they'll be completely lost in this intricate fantasy.
3.5 stars. Not squeaky clean but I don't remember anything excessive.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
By Kathryn Erskine
Philomel Books, 2010. 235 pgs. Middle Grade Fiction
Ten-year-old Caitlin's has Asperger's Syndrome and is she's struggling to develop social skills from small things such as looking people in the eye to larger things like actually making friends. At the same time, she's dealing with the recent death of her brother, who was killed in a school shooting, and is trying to find closure for herself and for her father.
It's no wonder this book won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. Caitlin's voice is so real and the message of the book is inspiring and moving. Caitlin is both a naive narrator, since she doesn't understand much of what others take for granted in life, and a refreshingly honest narrator who opens the reader's eyes as much as the eyes of the other characters in the book. This would be a great choice for class discussions.
4 stars. Clean read.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
By Cat Patrick
Little, Brown, 2011. 288 pgs. Teen fiction
London Lane can't remember the past; every morning at 4:33 a.m., her memory of the past is erased. However, she does have "memories" or glimpses of things to come in the future. Using these glimpses, along with notes that she records for herself, she gets by. However, when a new boy, Luke, shows up and London doesn't see him the future, she's concerned--she's drawn to him and they start dating, but each day, she has to "remind" herself that he even exists. At the same time, she gets a dark glimpse of a funeral in the future and is trying to figure out what is going to happen, why she can't "see" Luke in the future, and if the two things are related--and what secrets her mother is keeping from her.
This book started out really well; I was immediately drawn in by the premise of the story. The plot was intriguing and I really liked the budding relationship between Luke and London. However, inconsistencies in the book started to frustrate me, and in the end, I felt like the consistencies kept the story from even making sense. For example, why can't London see Luke? Even if she can't see Luke in the distant future, why wouldn't she be able to see him the following day? She mentions that she gets through school, knowing where to sit and where her locker is, etc., by "remembering" the following day...so, why can't she remember Luke from the next day, if they date for over 6 months? That doesn't make sense to me.
(Side tangent: Luke and London don't sleep together but do discuss how they will in the future...and that's weird to me; if a girl can't remember the guy, shouldn't he be hesitant to sleep with her? Even if he wants to, ethically, isn't there something wrong with sleeping with someone who doesn't even know you?)
Anyway, the inconsistencies kinda took the wind of my sails so to speak. I think this could have been a great book if the inconsistencies were smoothed out and clearer answers given to how London's break works and why.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
By Suzanne Fisher Staples
Knofp, 1989. 240 pgs. Middle grade/Teen fiction
Eleven-year-old Shabanu lives in the deserts of Pakistan, helping her father raise camels. As her twelve-year-old sister is preparing for her arranged marriage, Shabanu is beginning to think about her own arranged marriage, which will take place the following year. Just as Shabanu has come to accept the prospect of marriage and be excited about her future husband, disaster strikes and Shabanu will have to become the fourth wife of a much-older man in order to save her family--or decided to defy them by refusing and leaving.
This book was a tough read--it's fascinating but it's also disturbing. It's difficult to stomach the fact that even in today's world there are children forced into marriages that will make them miserable, that there isn't really a way to have a realistic, happy ending in many cases. So it was hard to read the book, with Shabanu continually facing loss and disappointment and there not really being a way for her to triumph. Yes, she has a triumphant spirit, but it's hard to think of a child facing what she's facing. At the same time, I really enjoyed the look at this culture, so different from my own. It was very eye-opening, and I appreciated the fact that the author showed a very loving family, who wanted to do their best to care for each other even though the restraints of their culture and socioeconomic status forced them to make really difficult decisions.
4 stars. (There's some talk about developing bodies and crossing into womanhood, but otherwise, it's a clean read.)
As a side note, at what point does a book become "historical fiction" instead of contemporary? This book was published in 1989, and I'm not sure how to classify this one. I'd also be interested in seeing what, if any, changes have come about in Pakistan since then--maybe the designation has less to do with the actual number of years but the social, political, and cultural climate...
Friday, July 8, 2011
By Geraldine McCaughrean
Harper, 2010. 324 pgs. Middle grade fiction.
When diphtheria comes to Olive Town, Oklahoma, twelve-year-old Cissy's parents want to get her somewhere safe. Soon, they've enlisted Cissy's uptight schoolteacher, Miss May March, to escort her and two friends, Tibbie and Kookie, to meet up with their former schoolteacher, Loucien Crew, who has recently married an actor and gone on the road with his troupe. The actors have taken refuge in an old paddle steamer, which has run aground but soon sweeps them off down the river, and adventures ensue. They lose several members in a storm and then gain more along the way as they set up a traveling show. However, they're hit with some bad luck, and Cissy, who is desperate to be an actress, will have to give the performance of a lifetime to get them out of trouble.
This book is hilarious! The writing is clever and funny and the characters are a riot! The plot is good, too, and readers will be swept up in the story. This would be a great one to read aloud with a class.
By Laura Hillenbrand
Random House, 2010. 473 pgs. Adult Nonfiction
Louie Zamperini was a hellion as a child--stealing, fighting, failing his classes. His older brother Pete forced him to start running, which Louie initially resented but soon came to love; his natural talent and his training were such that he competed in the 1936 Olympics in an event he'd only run a handful of times. Before the 1940 Olympics, though, WWII broke out and Louie joined the Army and was trained to be a bombardier with the Army Air Corps. Louie and his crew completed several successful missions but one day, their plane crashed on the ocean. Only Louie and two others survived and floated for weeks in rafts in shark-infested waters. By the time they were picked up by the enemy Japanese, only Louie and his friend Phil remained, and the worst part of their experience--being POWs with sadistic guards, little food, hard labor, and constant illness--was still to come.
This is nonfiction at its finest; it's gripping both in the story--Zamperini's story is moving and inspirational--and in the writing, which is engaging and does its subject justice. From the first page, I was hooked and couldn't wait to see how things would play out for Louie. I can't say enough good things about it. It's one of those books that provides the reader with tons of information and, at the same time, sparks the desire to learn lots more. For example, I HAVE to read more about Japanese POW camps after this. Although it was published for the adult market, many teens would be hooked as well.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
By Sarah Dessen
Viking, 2009. 383 pgs. Teen fiction
After graduating high school, Auden goes to stay with her father, stepmother ,and new half-sister. While there, she develops a friendship with Eli, a fellow insomniac, as they find ways to pass the night. Finding out that Auden, whose parents are academics, has pretty much missed out on a normal childhood, Eli encourages her to try things she's never done. All seems to be going well with their quest until a family struggle brings up all Auden's unresolved issues from her parents' divorce and she pulls back from Eli and retreats to the safety of books and academia.
When this book first came out in 2009, I read and loved it; I gave it a rave review on my library's book blog. However, this time around, I listened to it, and I loathed the narrator's reading of it. There were so many times when she got the rhythm of sentences wrong, pausing at places that changed the meaning of or disrupted the flow of the sentences. It was highly irritating. And, as the same time, perhaps because I was cranky as I was listening to the narrator butcher a book I'd previously enjoyed, I started getting irritated by other things--like, the underage drinking with absolutely no hint of a consequence, the fact that Auden hooks up with Eli's brother (before she and Eli meet) and there's absolutely no effect on their friendship and blossoming relationship because of it, and how completely impossible Auden's parents are. However, these things didn't bother me in my previous reading, so why now? Well, I started another of Dessen's books (This Lullaby), which again, I had previously liked and now couldn't get into, and I think perhaps it's not so much Dessen's books personally as that I've reached a saturation point in my reading. I'm TIRED of reading about teens drinking and sleeping around and horrible parents, etc. Are these things realistic? YES. Are some books about these topics necessary? Of course. However, there are also teens who are still virgins and not bemoaning the fact, there are teens who have no desire to drink or use drugs, and there are functional, happy families out there, I personally would really like some books that show that. I don't want June Cleaver or whatever, but I want more balance. I think it's possible to write great books that really reach teens that deal with serious issues and are well-written that don't have all this stuff in it...Joan Bauer's books come to mind, actually. So, basically, I think that just as I am SOOOOOOOOOOOO tired of vampires and all things supernatural, I'm tired of books about parents who are so selfish, stupid, etc. and teens who are drinking, sleeping around, etc., and I want more balance in what's being published. Please, please, publishers and authors:Give me something different.
End tangent. Back to the book...I don't really know what to rate it. Before, I would have given it five stars, but after listening to it, I would only give it a three. So I guess I'll average it and give it a four...but unhappily so.
Also, another note to producers of audiobooks: Shorter tracks, please. Ten minutes per track is RIDICULOUS! Don't go over five minutes, I say.
By Joseph Bruchac
Dial Books, 2005. 231 pgs. Teen fiction
From the time he is sent to a boarding school run by whites and assigned a new name, Ned Begay is told that being Navajo is a bad thing. He's not allowed to speak his native language and is constantly told that only by leaving his heritage behind can he amount to anything. However, when Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, the Marine Corps suddenly has a need for Navajos who can speak both their native tongue and English. The first twenty-nine Navajos recruited devise a code to convey messages, based on their native tongue, and Ned, in the second wave of Navajo recruitments, becomes one of the code talkers vital to the success of the Marine Corps as they fight to retake American territories in the Pacific as well as establish a presence on Iwo Jima and Okinowa.
This is a fascinating piece of historical fiction, showing the contribution of the Navajos to the armed forces during WWII. I particularly enjoyed the details about how the code was developed and taught, as well as the incorporation of Navajo traditions into the story. Some of the military details bogged down the story for me, but I think others who are interested in war stories wouldn't mind that at all.
One thing I didn't like about the novel was that it talked about the cruelty of the Japanese military in their treatment of prisoners of war and when they took over Pacific Islands even put the native peoples in concentration camps, but it didn't mention at all how the Japanese in the U.S. were rounded up and stripped of their homes and everything as they were forced to live in concentration camps. While Bruchac did talk about how many of the Japanese (in Japan) didn't agree with the war, there seemed to me to be a slight imbalance by pointing out what the Japanese army did wrong and not what the U.S. did wrong.
Overall, great book. I wish there were more books out there by American Indian authors.
4 stars. Clean read, other than a little, little bit of language.
Friday, June 24, 2011
By Ruta Sepetys
Philomel Books, 2011. 344 pgs. Teen fiction
In 1941, Lina and her family are living in Lithuania, which has been invaded by Stalin's Soviets. After her father disappears, Lina, her brother and mother are rounded up, forced onto a train, and taken to a labor camp where they live in horrible conditions, with little food, terrible captors, and the constant worry about where their father is and if they will ever be reunited. Lina, an artist, draws pictures of their experiences so that someday, she'll be able to share them with the world, and also tries to find some way to contact her father.
Wow! This book is a powerful look at a time period that I knew nothing about. I vaguely knew that the Soviet Union had labor camps and people were lost in the system for years, but this book took that little knowledge and made it real. Although it's fiction, the situations and circumstances portrayed provide an eye-opening look at a very real, terrible time in history. With such an intense topic wrapped into gripping writing, there's not much more I could ask from the book. I do ask publishers and authors to provide more books, both fiction and nonfiction, on this topic for teen readers.
5 stars. Clean read. (There might be a little language, and a little bit of realistic vulgarity in how the Soviets talk about and to the captured women.)
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Book 1: The Thief
Recorded Books, 1997. 7 CDs(7 hr., 15 min.) Teen fiction
The magus of Sounis (the king's highest advisor) rescues a common thief from the king's prison and drags him on a long journey to find and steal (from the gods, no less) a mythical stone that gives the possessor of the stone the ultimate right to rule. However, Gen, the thief, is not quite what he seems.
Book 2: The Queen of Attolia
Recorded Books, 2007. 8 CDs (9 hr.) Teen fiction
Eugenides, the thief of Eddis, is captured in the kingdom of Attolia. As punishment, the queen cuts off his right hand and sends him home to Eddis, where he mopes and mourns the loss of his hand, and he thinks, his entire purpose in life. However, when he realizes that Eddis has gone to war with Attolia and that war with Sounis, their neighbor on the other side, Eugenides realizes there might still be something he can do to help his country--and himself.
Book 3: The King of Attolia
Recorded Books, 2006. 9 CDs (10 hr., 30 min.) Teen fiction
Having wed the Queen of Attolia, Eugenides must now try to win over her people. His attendents and royal guard all seem to hate him, including Costis, the young guard who goes so far as to strike the king. Rather than having him killed, Eugenides assigns Costis to his personal guard, and he, like other Attolians, comes to realize that there's more to the king than they initially saw.
Book 4: A Conspiracy of Kings
Greenwillow Books, 2010. 316 pages. Teen fiction
Sophus, the heir to the throne of Sounis, is kidnapped and sold into slavery. He must figure out how to escape, and following the death of his uncle (the king), unite his country, which is divided by civil war and subject to invasion by the Medes. He goes to Attolia to seek help from Eugenides and the queen of Eddis, and it will take all three countries to defeat the Medes and put down the civil war.
This is an intriguing series, with a fantasy world somewhat like Greece in its heyday. There are SOOOO many twists and turns that it's almost impossible to predict everything that's going to happen. I was hooked from the first book, and I actually think it might be my favorite of the series. I actually liked the fourth book the least, but I think that might be because we don't get to see as much of Eugenides as in the other books, since Sophus is the main character. Also, I got a little tired of all the political stuff--I guess I understand why kings and queens would have to act they way they do but sometimes it just doesn't seem so nice and I don't like that. It's accurate and probably necessary for the story...but still, not always easy to read...like when Eugenides doesn't seem quite so nice to Sophus anymore.
One thing that can be a bit jarring about the books is that the narration does change. Book 1 was Gen's story. Book 2 was mostly Gen with some of the queen of Attolia thrown in. Book 3 is mainly Costis's story, and book 4 is entirely Sophus's, and the point of view also changes--sometimes third person limited, sometimes omniscient, and sometimes first person.
I listened to the first three books on CD and really loved Jeff Woodman as the narrator. (I read the fourth one, and my head was a decent narrator ;) but not as good as Woodman). I highly recommend listening to this series if at all possible.
4.5 stars. Clean reads. Great series!! Check it out. I know my summaries didn't do them justice, but trust me: the books are well worth reading.
Friday, June 10, 2011
By Ally Carter
Brilliance Audio, 2009. 5 CDs (6 hr., 10 min.) Teen fiction
Kat Bishop comes from a family a thieves and cons, and although she conned her way into an elite boarding school in order to get away from that life, finds herself drawn back to the family when her father is accused on stealing some paintings from Arturo Taccone, an evil mobster. Kat's dad swears innocence, but Taccone doesn't believe him and he gives Kat two weeks to get his paintings back. So, Kat must assemble a team, figure out who stole the paintings and where he stashed them, and get them back to Taccone or the lives of everyone she loves are in danger.
There's not much not like about this book--there's adventure, suspense, a kick-butt protagonist with a good supporting cast, a bit of a love triangle, and a cool plot line. And, the audio version is great.
Monday, June 6, 2011
By Gloria Whelan
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2011. 217 pgs. Teen fiction
Rosy is a British girl living in India following World War I, as many Indians are starting to cry out for independence. Many of the British avoid the Indians, or employ them only as servants, but when Rosy rescues an Indian baby, sold to a cruel man when the family can't afford to keep him, she meets some British citizens who actually support Indian independence. Upset with his daughter, her father sends her to England for a proper education, but there, just as much as in India, Rosy comes to know her own mind and influence those around her.
This is a great piece of historical fiction, letting readers see what life was like in India in 1919. It's a brief story, but it's one that is well-written, with not a single wasted word, and readers will be enriched by reading it.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
By Allison Goodman
Viking, 2008. 531 pgs. Teen fiction
In the fantasy world where Eon lives, there are 12 dragons, based on the Chinese zodiac. that affect the political system. While the emperor is the ruler, each dragon has a Dragoneye and an apprentice who will eventually become a Dragoneye. These men can tap their dragons' power and are major players in the country's political system. The apprentices are chosen from a group of hopefuls, selected by the dragons themselves. As the year of the Rat Dragon approaches, Eon hopes to be selected as the apprentice. However, Eon is crippled and, worse, a girl, Eona. Although she is disguised as a boy, if she is found out, she will be killed. Yet, she has the dragon sight, meaning she can see the dragons, and she knows that becoming the apprentice would change her life. What she doesn't know is just how much things will change and how dangerous her situation really is.
I don't consider myself to be a hard-core fantasy reader; I like fantasy like Harry Potter where there's a slow introduction to magical things but there are Muggles and everyday things to relate to. Well, this fantasy is NOT like that; readers are thrown into a foreign world. While it's skillfully developed, for some readers (like me), it will be difficult to follow all the intricacies of the world. However, Eon's struggle to find her place in the world and to stop the kingdom from falling apart is an intriguing story (although, really, it took her a long time to figure out the major point, which I won't mention because I don't want to ruin it). Overall, this might be a big investment for readers who aren't adept fantasy readers, particularly since the sequel is another hundred pages, but for readers who like fantasy, adventure, and a girl dominating in a male world, this is a good choice.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
By Frances O'Roark Dowell
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, c2011. 211 pgs. Teen fiction
Janie lives on a mini farm with her parents, something she used to be excited about, but when she hit high school and had some embarrassing moments with hay in hair and goat poop on her shoes, the farm became a cause of embarrassment. She's just trying to blend in and not be noticed anymore, but when she starts learning how to play base guitar from a guy named Monster and getting to know a former civil rights worker, she realizes maybe she doesn't want to hide after all.
I didn't really feel like there was anything that really made this book stand out. It's good and fans of realistic teen fiction will like it, but it didn't do anything to really leave a lasting impression on me.
3 stars. Clean Read.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
By Susan Campbell Baroletti
Scholastic Press, 2008. 202 pgs. Middle Grade/Teen fiction
In Nazi Germany, some people recognized Nazi propaganda and violence for what it was--a violation of civil rights and a bunch of lies to cover the truth. Helmuth Hubener, a teenager, was one of those people. Troubled by the Nazis and their beliefs and adhering to his own beliefs (he was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints) he only reluctantly participated in the Hitler Youth (a requirement for all German youth), and, after listening to illegal BBC broadcasts about the war, began writing and distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets. Caught, he was sentenced to death but was at peace with his decision to tell the truth.
Based on the true story of Helmuth Hubener (whose last name actually wasn't Hubener for much of his life), this book is an intriguing look at how those who didn't support the Nazis might struggle with their own conscience--on the one hand, they wanted to protect themselves and their families, but on the other, how could they stand by as the Nazi madness spread? This is an inspiring story, and while occasionally, the writing felt a little simplistic to me, the message is powerful.
(As a very small side quibble...I think it's weird to call the book " A Novel based on the True Story of a Hitler Youth." Um, German youth were required to be Hitler Youth, which means the vast majority of them were Hitler Youth...and I think there's a big difference between Helmuth and those who actually enjoyed being in the Hitler Youth. Bartoletti portrays him as not being that involved in the Hitler Youth; he wasn't some horrible bully who saw the error of his ways and then changed. In this story, he's never one of those kids who thrives on being a part of the Hitler Youth, or who sees that as a huge part of his identity. So, to me, that little addition doesn't quite fit. Perhaps a publisher's attempt at being dramatic? I don't know...but I don't think it's accurate in what it conveys.)
Saturday, May 28, 2011
By Sharon M. Draper
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010. 295 pgs. Middle grade fiction
Ten-year-old Melody is fascinated with words. She has a remarkable memory, is highly intelligent, and no one knows it, because Melody also has cerebral palsy and can't speak and has very limited physical capacity. However, she longs for a voice of her own, a way to share her thoughts and feelings with others and to be a "normal" kid. When Melody gets a special computer that allows her to type and speaks her words, suddenly, the world opens up for her...but not always as much as she'd like.
Overall, I really liked this one. It's a great story about a girl with a disability who wants to be seen as more than her disability. There are some heartbreaking moments as other children are unkind, but also some great moments as Melody realizes how strong she is. At the same time, there were some parts of the book where the writing had me rolling my eyes a little; for example, "...there's no one like me. It's like I live in a cage with no door and no key. And I have no way to tell someone how to get me out. Oh, wait! I forgot about Mrs. V!" Um...first, if there's no door, why would you need a key? Second, really, really, she forgot all about Mrs. V. (a very integral part of the story). Why not just say something like, "Well, except maybe Mrs. V.," or something like that? Still, it's a book worth reading. Great for kids with special needs, and also for kids who are insensitive to others, and even for adults who sometimes just don't get it.
Friday, May 27, 2011
By Clare Vanderpool
Delacorte Press, 2010. 351 pgs. Middle grade fiction.
Twelve-year-old Abilene's father, a drifter, sends her to live in Manifest with an old friend. Abilene, who just wants to be with her father, spends her time in Manifest trying to find some sort of connection to her father. At the same time, she stumbles across a mystery: she finds a cigar box with some mementos and letters from WWI-era that make her wonder just what was going on in Manifest back then. She and her friends start looking for a spy, and the town fortune teller starts telling Abilene pieces of the story.
An excellent piece of historical fiction. I really liked Abilene and what we learn about the town and the people. It's a great look into life during WWI and also during the 1930s, when Abilene is in town. My biggest gripe with the book is probably that I listened to the audio version and didn't care for some of the voices.
4.5 stars. Clean Read.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
By Maurice Gleitzman
Henry Holt, 2010.198 pgs. Middle Grade Fiction
Ten-year-old Felix, a Jew, and six-year-old Zelda, the daughter of now-dece have escaped from a train heading to a death camp, but as they try to find a place to hide, one of the first things they encounter is a pit with a bunch of slaughtered Jewish children. Frightened and orphaned, the two agree that they'll be a new family and always stay together. They find shelter with a Polish woman, Genia, but Felix knows that simply by being Jewish, he puts Genia and Zelda in danger, and he tries to figure out what is best for his new family.
In the sequel to Once, Felix has become somewhat less naive, but still holds a child-like innocence that makes him a heart-breakingly real narrator. This is a beautifully written story about young people trying to hide during WWII, and if it doesn't choke you up a little bit, you probably don't have a heart.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
By Jennifer L. Holm
andom House/Listening Library, 2010. 3.5 hours. Middle Grade Fiction
Turtle is sent to live with aunt and cousins in Key West after her mother gets a job as a housekeeper for a lady who doesn't like children. Turtle, who is sassy and has a shell built around her, finds that she has a lot to learn about Conchs (the Key West residents) and about letting go of her shell a little bit.
I really enjoyed this book. Holm's develops Key West during the Depression in a way that is completely accessible for readers, throws in characters who will have readers laughing out loud, and does it all with language with transports readers to a whole other place. I'd love to read more about Turtle and her Diaper Gang friends, so I'm really hoping this one turns out to be the first in a series.
By Sarah Dessen
Viking Childrens Books, 2011. 402 pgs. Teen Fiction
Since her parents' divorce, Mclean Sweet has followed her father around on his job as a restaurant consultant. That means she's lived in four towns in two years--and in each place, she has created a new identify for herself, complete with a new name (she's been Beth, Eliza, and Lizbet) and new hobbies and interests, molding her personality into whatever works best for her current location. She doesn't get attached, and she doesn't say goodbye. However, in the fourth town, before she has a chance to role out her new persona (Liz), she's forced back into being Mclean--except she doesn't really know what that means anymore. As she's trying to deal with her family troubles--she's basically avoided her mother ever since the divorce--and making new friends, she has to figure out how to be herself again.
I always enjoy Sarah Dessen's books and this one is no exception (although I will say it's not my favorite of hers). There's a little bit of romance (although some readers might wish there was a little more, since it doesn't garner many pages of coverage), and a lot of realistically-developed family and identity issues. Dessen is great at portraying deep characters and getting inside the head of teen girls. I thought the ending wrapped up a little too quickly, but overall, another teen book with some substance to recommend to teens and adults alike.
On a side note, one thing that REALLY irritated me about this book is the basketball angle--Mclean and her father used to be big into basketball, but then her mother ran off with their favorite college team's coach and now they hate the support. Still, it was supposed to have been a big part of their lives...and yet, Mclean repeatedly refers to the "basketball goal". Um, it's a HOOP. That's why it's called shooting hoops, not shooting goals. I don't know, maybe it's a regional thing?? But honestly, I've been around basketball my whole life, and no one I know calls it a goal. So for me, it just made the book not ring quite so true. Granted, that's a little detail, but it irked me...and I wonder now how much little details can detract from a book. Does something so small have so much power on the reader's experience?
Anyway, 4 stars, and a pretty clean read. There's some mention of underage drinking and maybe there's some swearing but I don't even remember for sure (which means if it's there, it's pretty mild).
Monday, May 16, 2011
By A.S. King
Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. 326 pgs. Teen fiction
Vera Dietz's best friend Charlie has died, which is bad. But before he died, he betrayed her, which is worse. And now his ghosts (yes, plural) are haunting her, which might be worst of all. Vera knows more about Charlie's death than she has admitted to anyone, and while she doesn't want to deal with Charlie in any form, his ghosts are pushing her to find out what he needed to tell her before he died and to clear his name.
This book opens after Charlie's death but flashbacks help readers see the development of Vera and Charlie's friendship, as well as the deterioration of their friendship. Vera, who has always tried to stay out of the spotlight, to be invisible, has to decide who she's going to be without her best friend--and what she's going to do about his death, while at the same time dealing with the fact that Charlie comes from an abusive family and her own mother left her and her dad when she was twelve.
This book is jam-packed with issues and problems, which in some cases might overwhelm a book, but in this case, they really worked together to have realistic, round characters. The book was gripping, and as more pieces came to light about Charlie, Vera, and their past, I kept wanting more and more. This is not a book for the faint-hearted, and thematic material might make it more suitable for older teens, but it's well-written and powerful.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
By Gary D. Schmidt
Clarion Books, 2011. 360 pgs. Middle Grade/Teen fiction
Doug Sweiteck is a diamond in the rough. His father, who is loud, obnoxious, and even abusive, has quit his job and is moving them to Marysville, a podunk town far from Doug's beloved Yankees. His oldest brother, who is about as kind as their father, is fighting in Vietnam and his other older brother looks like he's well on the way to being a hoodlum, and there's no lost love between Doug and his brothers. Doug is anticipating a pretty miserable eighth grade year in Marysville, but some things turn out to be surprisingly good. Take for instance, Mr. Powell, the librarian who is teaching Doug to draw using volume of Audubon's Birds of America. And Lil Spencer, whose father owns the local, gets him a job as a delivery boy for her father, and she herself turns out to be quite the friend to Doug. And school, which has plenty of downs, turns out to have some ups as well.
This book is a companion novel to The Wednesday Wars; it's a complete stand-alone, and in my opinion, even better than The Wednesday Wars. I liked The Wednesday Wars just fine, but I love this one. It wrapped itself around my heart, and readers who aren't touched by some part of Doug's story likely aren't human.
The first person narration is fabulous--Doug has a distinct voice that is wise and strikes the perfect balance between humorous and serious. The situations Doug faces also range from serious (some are truly heart-wrenching) to hilarious (although the hilarity is often shown in smaller doses). Watching him evolve from a borderline hoodlum himself to a kid who can do anything is a truly beautiful experience, made all the better by fantastic storytelling.
Supporting characters enhance the story. Some, like Lil, Mr. Powell and Doug's science teacher are the sorts you wish you could get to know, while others, like Principle Peattie and Coach Reed, will have readers wishing, along with Doug, that someone would punch them in the face. Their villainy might be a little over the top, but it fits with Doug's voice.
Although this book is historical fiction (and would be a great story to help people understand more about the Vietnam war), even readers who don't like historical fiction will be able to relate to and enjoy it--many of the issues are ones facing kids and teens today.
It has been said there are four doorways to reading--characters, setting, plot, and language--and this book has all four, making it a great choice for just about anyone. Even reluctant readers will enjoy getting to know Doug (who is a reluctant reader himself).
This is a book about art and learning from it, about life and dealing with it, and about family and loving them. It's about getting knocked down and getting back up again, about hurting and healing, and about becoming the master of one's own destiny.
There are some books that just make your soul feel different after you read them, and for me, this is one of those books. I read it on a day when I personally needed to know that things would be okay for now, and I find myself cheered by it and grateful to Gary Schmidt for it. I hope it wins the Newbery next year. 5 stars.
Monday, April 25, 2011
By Stephanie Hemphill
Balzer + Bray, 2010. 408 pgs. Teen fiction
This fictionalized account of the Salem witch trials alternates between the points of view of three of the girls who claimed to "see" witches--Mercy, who is an orphan and a servant who has been abused by a past master and wants to find her place in the world; Ann, who wants to get her parents' attention and is the ringleader of the group; and Margaret, who is jealous of Mercy and worried about her relationship with Isaac Farrars. Each of the girls has her own motivations and joins in the accusations wholeheartedly, but as time passes, they wonder what would happen if they were to tell the truth.
This novel-in-verse is an interesting account of the Salem witch trials and the different reasons why the girls would make accusations against members of their community, as well as who they chose to accuse. At the same time, it's hard to actually really like any of the girls (despite the pain in their own lives) because they did wrongly accuse and cause the deaths of many people. So, the characters are intriguing if not likable. All in all, a fine work of historical fiction.