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Sunday, May 31, 2009

1984 by George Orwell

Title: 1984
Author: George Orwell
ISBN: 9780452262935
Publisher: Plume - Harcourt Brace Book

"Thought Police. Big Brother. Orwellian. These words have become part of our national vocabulary because of George Orwell's classic novel 1984, the story of one man's nightmare odyssey through a world ruled by warring states and a power structure that controls not only information but individual thought and memory. A minor functionary named Winston Smith joins a covert brotherhood and pursues a forbidden love affair against the cold, gray backdrop of the Republic of Oceania - only to become a hunted enemy of the state... and of Big Brother. ______________________________________________

I know it seems weird that I didn't have to read this in college or something, but I finally got around to reading this book. I really love dystopian fiction - and this is one of the best in the genre. There are a lot of books that I've read that I now see have been influenced by this, which is really kinda cool. It was also interesting to learn how their new words work. Perhaps that's the nerd in me, though.

I really did enjoy reading this book - finally. And the story was very interesting. It definitely was a bit wordy at times, but that was the nature of the story. Once you get past that, it's a really interesting story. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes the dystopian stuff - or even science fiction.

Of course there are plenty of reviews of this book floating around, but here are a few of the ones I found online:
Challenging Destiny
The Other Side of the River
Books Love Me

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Japan Ai by Aimee Major Steinberger

Title: Japan Ai: A tall girl's adventures in Japan
Author: Aimee Major Steinberger
ISBN: 9781933617831
Publisher: Go! Comi

"In Japanese, "Ai" means "Love" - and if you love Japan, get ready to dive head0first into the incredible world of Japanese pop-culture!

Join Aimee Major Steinberger (a professional animator with a passion for all things cute) on the ultimate otaku vacation! Visit fantasy restaurants, maid cafes, and the world's most exclusive doll store! Cosplay on the infamous Harajuku Street! Attend an outrageous all-female Takarazuka musical! See beautiful shrines, hot springs, stores full of manga, and so much more!
Aimee captures it all in a manga journal that is both adorable and breathtaking!"
I really didn't have any idea what this book was like when I got it for our collection, but it's so awesome! It's almost a travel guide to Japan for anyone who is into manga or cosplay. It details all of the places the author went, the food she ate, the crazy people she saw... and much more. It's probably the best kind of travel guide there could ever be.
The illustrations vary from hilarious to fairly pretty (of some of the people/places). Her descriptions are pretty humorous as well - just because she was constantly hitting the height and size issue.
I would recommend this to absolutely anyone. Period. More specifically the anime/manga lovers - which is almost all of the teens around here. And middle school and up would be best. Adults should pick it up, just because it's so cute! :D
Other blog reviews:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Girls by Tucker Shaw

Title: Girls
Author: Tucker Shaw
ISBN: 9780810983489
Publisher: Amulet Books

"Meet Mary- She's beautiful, she's a good girl, and her ski star boyfriend is cheating on her.

Meet Crystal- She's a townie, she works at Mod Jeans, and she's cheating with Mary's boyfriend.

Meet Sylvia- She's nasty, she's rich, and she's got something up her Prada designed sleeve.

Meet Amber- She's a flake, she's the barista at the hottest coffee shop in Aspen, and she serves up gossip even hotter than grande skim lattes.

Meet Peggy- She's Mary's best friend, she's a showboarder and aspiring chef, and she has no idea how to deal with all these girls.

A modern retelling of Clare Boothe Luce's classic play The Women (which featured not one male in the cast). The Girls is a quick-witted, stylish comedy about friendship, love, and most important, gossip! An elite Aspen prep school sets the stage for jealousy and intrigue as the lives of many girls intertwine and tangle into a wickedly fun mess (in which no boys ever appear)."

I haven't read/seen The Women, but perhaps I will now that I've read this retelling. If the front flap of the book had not said there were no male characters in the book, I don't think I would have noticed. This book was such a fun, drama-filled story! It was a much faster read than I thought it was going to be - but I suppose two sentence chapters make for a fast book :).

The story is catty and gossipy and all things good about chick lit. If you are a fan of the chick lit stuff, I'd definitely recommend this book to you. It is pretty much all about boys and relationships, but with no actual guys making appearances. This book is good for all ages of girls (middle school and up).

I have to say, though, that if you're into cooking - this is a great book. There are tons of recipes mentioned and a list of a few in the back pages. I almost wanted to make them myself - and I'm not a cook, so much.

Other blog reviews:
Young Adult (& Kids) Books Central
Customer Review on Amazon.com

Friday, May 22, 2009

Gentlemen by Michael Northrop

Title: Gentlemen
Author: Michael Northrop

ISBN: 9780545097499
Publisher: Scholastic Press


"Micheal, Tommy, Mixer, and Bones aren't just from the wrong side of the tracks - they're from the wrong side of everything. No one at their high school takes them seriously, except for Mr. Haberman, their remedial English teacher.

Mr. Haberman calls them 'gentlemen,' but everyone else ignores them - or, in Bones's case, is dead afraid of them. When one of their close-knit group goes missing, the clues all seem to point in one direction: to Mr. Haberman. "


This book had one level - intense! First off, it's written from the perspective of a teen boy who has image issues and attitude issues and and and... So it's already packed with self doubts and concerns and stuff. But then you throw in the mystery aspect and the book just hits ya across the face.

That's not to say I didn't like it! I did. There was just very little break from the heavy/intense feel of the story. That did make it a little harder for me to read - but that's probably a mood thing, not the book.

I would probably recommend this to any high school guy for a mystery read. It does weirdly dodge the whole "language thing," so that makes it a little more awkward. But I think guys will still be able to get into it. Girls too, maybe. But it's definitely guy-centric.

Other blog reviews:
Wonderous Reads
Juiciliciousss Reviews
Reading Is Bliss

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Title: Princess of the Midnight Ball
Author: Jessica Day George

ISBN: 9781599903224
Publisher: Bloomsbury

"Princess Rose is the eldest of twelve sisters condemned to dance each night for the wicked King Under Stone in his palace deep within the earth. It is a curse that has haunted the girls since their birth - and only death will set them free.

Then Rose meets Galen, a young soldier-turned-gardener with an eye for adventure and a resolve that matches her own, and freedom suddenly begins to seem a little less impossible. To defeat the king and his dark court, they will need one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all - true love. "

I didn't realize this was a re-telling of a classic fairy tale until one of my coworkers clued me in. I haven't read the original story, but I really loved this book! The story itself was a little predictable (of course), but that's kind of the thing that a fairy tale is made of.

The way this story is written is so rich that you almost feel like you've been transplanted into the story. The descriptions of the places and sights and sounds are just the way I like them to be done. The only thing I would have changed was the length of the book :). I was wishing for more when I reached the last page... but I suppose that's a good problem to have.

I would recommend this to girls, mostly. And, really, any age - from middle school on up. It's a great princess story - and who doesn't love a good princess story?!

Other blog reviews:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Kin: The Good Neighbors by Holly Black

Title: Kin: The Good Neighbors
Author: Holly Black and Ted Naifeh
ISBN: 9780439855624
Publisher: Graphix

"The human realm and the faerie realm have always been good neighbors. But all that is about to change...

Rue Silver's life isn't at all what it appears to be. Her mother has disappeared - and her father is being blamed for a murder. Is he guilty? Or is there another truth beneath it all?

Rue digs deeper into her family's past and makes a startling discovery: Her mother is a faerie, and she has vanished back into the faerie realm because of a broken promise. In order to get her back, Rue must plunge into the depths of her own identity - and must follow the sinister twists of her own fate.

Beware: The faerie realm is about to crash into our own.

I have loved everything I have read by Holly Black - and this book is no exception. The art of this book gives the story a depth that meshes really well with Black's writing. I absolutely loved this story. It's brooding and fantastic and keeps you wondering...

There's a second installment that will be around in October of this year... and I'm already wishing I had it. The book leaves you on a cliffhanger - and the answer seems not at all obvious (at least at this point). I plan on pawning this book off to the next person who tells me they want fantasy books... because I really think any fantasy lover can find a place for this book.

Other blog reviews:
Charlotte's Library
Avid Book Reader
Eva's Book Addiction
Mrs. Hill's Book Blog
Graphic Novel Reporter

Being Nikki by Meg Cabot

Title: Being Nikki
Author: Meg Cabot
ISBN: 9780545040563
Publisher: Point, Scholastic

"Things aren't pretty for Emerson Watts.

Em was sure there couldn't be anything worse than being a brainiac in the body of a teenage supermodel.

But it turned out she was wrong.

It turns out she has a mother who's gone mysteriously missing, a brother who's shown up on her doorstep demanding answers, a former best friend who's intent on destroying Stark Enterprises, and a British heartthrob who's written a song about her that's topping the charts.

How can Em balance all that with school and runway shows - especially when she's got ex-boyfriends crawling out of the woodwork who want more than just a photo op, a sister who is headed to the high school cheerleading championships, and a company she represents that seems to be turning to the dark side...

Not to mention trying to convince the love of her life that models aren't exactly airheads afterall... especially one model in particular.

But then, nobody said it was going to be easy being Nikki."

This series is shaping up to be really awesome. The story started out feeling really science-fictiony, but now it's firmly in "chick lit" territory. That's not a bad thing! Being Nikki starts right where Airhead left off. The characters are all the same, but you certainly don't get tired of them!

We aren't able to keep Airhead on the shelves, so I can only imagine how popular this book is going to continue to be. It's a fun, fast, smart read that girls of any age are going to love. Guys may love it too, but I'm certainly not going to force it on anyone :). But it is a great book!

Other blog reviews:
The Story Siren
Boy With Books.com
Pop Culture Junkie
Robbie's Reads

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tyrell by Coe Booth

Title: Tyrell
Author: Coe Booth
ISBN: 0439838797
Publisher: Push, Scholastic

"Tyrell can't get a break. His dad's in jail, his mom's no help, his brother's just a kid, and his girlfriend, Novisha, wants more than he can give.

Ms. Jenkins is just talking on and on 'bout how me and my family need to stay close and keep our faith in God strong while we going through hard times. I nod every couple minutes so she think I'm really listening, but to be honest, I'm really tired of everyone saying that. Like they know what we going through.

He's living in a shelter, but he doesn't want to be there long.

I really wanna put my fist through the wall. I can't calm myself down. I can feel the blood pounding in my brain. I gotta do something. I wanna go somewhere, but I don't got nowhere to go.

So he comes up with a plan. It could save him. Or it could backfire completely.

It's too much pressure.

Welcome to Tyrell's world."

This book was much more real than I was expecting. I know that sounds like a stupid thing to say, but the topics were just really heavy and very realistic. Since working in NYC, I've found that Tyrell's reality is very, very close to what the kids I work with deal with every day.

The one thing about this story that bothered me was the fact that it didn't really end. I mean, it did... but you were left feeling like there was much more to the story than you got. I guess it's good that it makes you wish for more - and it helps open discussions in a book group.

I would absolutely recommend this book to those looking for interesting urban fiction. Perhaps it isn't for the younger kids - because of language, drug use, and sexual topics. Of course, those are the things that make it realistic, but older kids would get it better. So yeah.

I haven't been very clear. Book great. Book recommended. Book good for discussion. Go for it - as long as you're ready for some harsh reality!

Other blog reviews:
60 Second Review
Sellers Library Teens
Goodreads Review from "Anna"

Friday, May 8, 2009

Death By Bikini by Linda Gerber

Title: Death By Bikini
Author: Linda Gerber

ISBN: 9780142411179

Publisher: Sleuth Speak


"Aphra Behn Connolly has the type of life most teenage girls envy. She lives on a tropical island and spends most of her time eavesdropping on the rich and famous. The problem is that her family's secluded luxury resort allows few opportunities to make friends - much less to meet cute boys.

So when smoldering Seth Mulo unexpectedly arrives with his parents, she's immediately drawn to him. Then a girl turns up dead on the beach the strings of her bikini top tight around her neck - and alarm bells sound. What exactly are Seth and his family hiding? And is it too great a coincidence that they turned up just one day before a murder?

As the plot thickens, Aphra finds that danger lurks behind even the most unexpected of faces..."

There just aren't enough good who-done-it (new) mysteries in the YA lit world. This book made me wish for more titles like it - the whole suspenseful murder mystery. I really enjoyed this story - straight to the end!

There is enough of a little romantic interest to get girls interested in this book - if the whole suspense and such doesn't draw them in. The story is solid, if not a little predictable. I didn't mind the predictability so much because the story was crafted so well.

My guess is that guys wouldn't like this one (if nothing more than just the cover!), but I'm definitely handing it to girls of any age. This one will actually work for any grades 7-12. The upper end might want to look toward adult fic to find more hardcore mysteries. This one is a great starting place though!!

Other blog reviews: Here, here, and here.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Season by Sarah MacLean

Title: The Season
Author: Sarah MacLean
ISBN: 9780545048866
Publisher: Orchard Books

"Seventeen-year-old Lady Alexandra Stafford doesn't fit into the world of Regency London - she's strong-willed, sharp-tongued, and she absolutely loathes dress fittings. Unfortunately, her mother has been waiting for years for Alex to be old enough to take part in the social whirlwind of a London season so she can be married off to someone safe, respectable, wealthy, and almost certainly boring. But Alex is much more interested in adventure than romance.

Between sumptuous balls, lavish dinner parties, and country weekends, Alex, along with her two best friends, Ella and Vivi, manages to get entangled in her biggest scrape yet. When the Earl of Blackmoor is killed in a puzzling accident, Alex decides to help his son, the brooding and devilishly handsome Gavin, uncover espionage, murder, and suspicion. As she and Gavin grow closer, will Alex''s heart be stolen in the process?

Romance and danger fill the air, as this year's season begins!"

For me, this book was the perfect historical fiction book for teens. I mean, it's got it all, really... balls, boys, gowns, love, murder, and more. The story takes place in London at the start of Alex's first season. I almost immediately loved the character of Alex - being so intellectual and not fitting in to her society. And the characters of her brothers and her best friends keep the book lively and fun. They do all seem a bit more modern than their set time period indicates, but that will keep readers interested.
I'm definitely recommending this book to teens who love historical fiction. It's a fun story with plenty of intrigue. Older readers might find the one-story-line thing a bit irritating. I was waiting for one of the friends or brothers to have some sort of love interest or issue or something... but it never happened. The one story you DO get is great, don't get me wrong. I was just wanting a little more meat in the background. I do have to say that the romance in this book is enough to make any girl swoon :). Great for any romance lovers!
Also, I paused at the several mentions of gothic literature - like Pride and Prejudice. It made me look up to see when it was published to make sure they could have read it in that time period... which is cutting it a little close, by the way. So, I dunno if all the logistics are right, but it will certainly appeal to teens (and possibly get them interested in other historical stuff).
As always, I send you to other reviews: Here, here, and here. There are lots of other reviews as well, so google away :).

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson

Title: The Dangerous Days of Daniel X
Author: James Patterson
ISBN: 9780316002929
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

The greatest superpower of all isn't to be part spider, part man, or to cast magic spells - the greatest power is the power to create. Daniel X has that power.

Daniel's secret abilities - like being able to manipulate objects and animals with his mind or to re-create himself in any shape he chooses - have helped him survive. but Daniel doesn't have a normal life. He is the protector of Earth, the Alien Hunter, with a mission beyond anyone's imagining.

From the day that his parents were brutally murdered before his very eyes, Daniel has used his unique gifts to hunt down their assassin. Finally, with the help of The List, bequeathed to him in his parents' dying breath, he is closing in on the killer. Now, on his own, he vows to carry out his father's mission - and to take vengeance in the process.
I've never read any of Patterson's adult books, but he's done a great job in the YA genre (well, he and whoever he is collaborating with). I've read - and loved - his Maximum Ride series and was a little wary to pick up another of his books. But I'm so glad I did!
This book is perfect for the middle reader that is trying to get into YA stuff. Dare I even say the "reluctant reader." Guys will love this one - I mean, come on... aliens taking over the universe... and they're all bugs?! How much better can it get?
I'll definitely be recommending this to kids who are looking for adventure or science fiction. This is absolutely a quick read for anyone who does a lot of reading... so perhaps not the best for the older, more experienced reader (though, it's such a fun story, almost anyone could get into it).
It's absolutely set up for sequels, and I think the next one is due to come out later this year. Keep your eyes open for it!!
There are other reviews online, per usual: Here, here, and here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi

Title: Gamer Girl
Author: Mari Mancusi
ISBN: 9780525479956
Publisher: Dutton Children's Books

Maddy's life: not so rockin'. Her parents split, she's stuck in a new, small town at a school full of Aberzombies and Haters, she has a crush on someone she really shouldn't like, and she's stuck with the nickname Freak Girl. Sometimes it's enough to retreat into her drawing - her manga is totally important to her - but when she gets Fields of Fantasy for her birthday, she knows she's found the one place she can be herself. In the game world, Maddy can transtorm from regular outcast high school studen to Allora, a beautiful Elfin princess with magical powers to take down enemies with a snap of her fingers and wave of her wand.
As Allora, Maddy's virtual life is perfect, and she even finds a little romance. But a real gamer girl understands that real life comes first - Maddy can't escape from her IRL problems. She has to find ways to kick back at the Haters, rock her manga, and find the new, real-life friends she knows she deserves."
This book was so fun! I really got excited to read this book when I read the summary and all. It just sounds like such an original story! And it definitely was that... in that the idea was original - even if the execution wasn't (original, that is).
It's absolutely a girly YA book that has all the makings of "chick lit." And I think this book can go for just about any age. The topics - like manga, online gaming, etc - are really up to date and just about any teen/tween can probably relate. I almost wish the story had been longer so I could have kept myself in that world for a little longer.
I do have to warn you that the ending is very, very predictable. Enough so that you can see it coming from almost the beginning. But that makes it a fun and almost drama-free read. So I would say that it's on the lighter side of YA fic, but that's a really good thing sometimes.
There are plenty of other people who agree with me :). See? Here, here, and here.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

Title: Catcher in the Rye
Author: JD Salinger

ISBN: 9780316769174

Publisher: Back Bay Books

"Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with "cynical adolescent." Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he's been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists.

His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation."

For whatever reason, I had never read this book until now. I know, I know... as a YA Librarian I should have read this, like, ten years ago. But I just got around to reading it. I've heard so many wonderful reviews and thoughts on this book - and outrage about it being challenged/banned/etc. So I finally picked it up and got through it.

But my thoughts aren't really as positive as others that I've read and heard. The thing is... I just like more action in stories I read. This book TALKS about action... about what has happened, what will happen... but very little actually DOES happen in this story. I mean, I do see why it's good for classes and study and such. I really do. I can imagine lots of things coming from this book being great for discussion. I just dunno that picking it up for a fun read is such a great plan.

I don't want to deter anyone from reading it - because I think it's good for many, many people. It just wasn't my cup of tea. The main character does speak very frankly and says just about everything that comes to him - that's where most of the controversy and enjoyment comes from. Can I say again that I do think it's a good book for classroom settings?

There are plenty of other opinions out there: Here, here, here, and here.

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