"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

30 August 2013

The Woken Gods

Bond, Gwenda. The Woken Gods. Strange Chemistry, 2013.

All of the gods/goddesses have awakened and are now running amok across the planet. Kyra lives in D.C. with her parents. Her mom is a Seer and doesn't live at home anymore.  Her dad has just been taken by a god for stealing a relic. And Kyra has to figure out what to do.  Can she recover the relic and save her dad in time?

I thought this book would be really interesting. It sounded a lot like the Percy Jackson series.  It is very similar to that series, except the plot is more complicated, similar to one of the later Harry Potter books. The problem is that the reader doesn't have much backstory to go on, and the main character is not remotely sympathetic.  I didn't get to know her well enough, or figure out what's up with all the gods being everywhere (all of them?  Where do they all live?  How does this work? I never found out), to really enjoy the story.  This book kind of feels like Percy Jackson fan fiction meets NaNoWriMo.  I just was not impressed.

Recommended for: teens who read Percy Jackson and want a similar story

Red Flags: violence, lots of language

Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

28 August 2013


Johannes, S.R. Untraceable. Coleman & Stott, 2011.

Grace's father is dead. At least, that's what everyone keeps telling her. But Grace is sure he is still alive, and she is using all of her tracking abilities to search for signs of him in the forest. Then she meets Mo and gets tangled up in an illegal bear poaching operation, and instead of searching for her father, Grace is fighting for her life.

I thought I would hate this book, but it ended up being fairly interesting. It starts out pretty slow, but it does pick up later on. Aside from the Grace/Mo insta-love, this was a good read. The tracking tips, along with the information about bear poaching, is interesting enough to keep a reader going, even if Grace isn't a very sympathetic character. And the ending was both surprising and unsurprising, which is an interesting combination.

Recommended for: teens, those interested in survival-type stories

Red Flags: Grace has a temper and a potty mouth to go with it. And there are some pretty graphic descriptions of injured bears. Also some mild fighting/shooting when the bear poachers discover Grace.

Overall Rating: 3/5 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

26 August 2013

Navigating Early

Vanderpool, Clare. Navigating Early. Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2013. 

After Jack's mother dies, his father places him in a boarding school in Maine. Jack befriends Early, a strange boy who lives in a custodian closet and makes up stories about the number Pi. Early's brother was killed in World War Two just a couple of years ago, and Early is convinced that his brother is just missing, so if Pi ends, then his brother will die, too. One holiday break, Jack and Early go on an adventure to find the great black bear along the Appalachian Trail.

This was an okay book. Vanderpool has a beautiful writing style, so I am sure there are people who love her work, but I found it difficult to believe that no one at the school was bothered by the fact that Jack and Early just disappeared for the entire break, with no mention of them signing out or any adults checking in on them, etc. And Early's story about Pi got a bit annoying to me. I started skimming the chapters where it was Pi's story, just so I could get back to the actual story. Supposedly this book is a Newbery contender this year, probably because of the author's award-winning work, Moon over Manifest. Since the Newbery is chosen for beautiful writing and not for kid-appeal, I could see this happening.

Recommended for: tweens, historical fiction fans

Red Flags: some minor violence during their adventure

Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

23 August 2013


Smith, Andrew. Winger. Simon and Schuster, 2013.

Ryan Dean West is a 14-year old junior at a boarding school on the West Coast. He's gotten in trouble and been placed in Opportunity Hall, the dormitory for kids who need the "opportunity" to be more supervised for a semester or two. Ryan Dean is trying to survive being a junior when he's the same age as many of the freshman, getting his best friend Annie to realize he wants to be more than just friends, and hoping his roommate, who's built like a linebacker, won't kill him in his sleep. Interspersed with Ryan Dean's story are illustrations and short comic strips.

At first I didn't think I'd like this book. I don't generally enjoy stories about rich, entitled kids at boarding schools,and I was annoyed that Ryan Dean was called two first names (technically, they are both his first name). Then there's the narration by 14-year old boy, which means practically every sentence has something to do with sex or hot girls or what's going on in Ryan Dean's pants. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that Ryan Dean developed some character throughout the book, and that even though he's at a boarding school, he doesn't always act like an entitled rich kid (beyond the "Hey, Mom, I ruined my Nikes so can you just buy me some new ones and send them ASAP?"). The illustrations were funny. Ryan Dean's mom's first package to him was hilarious. And the ending of the book was really surprising. So I guess my only other complaint is that the kid on the cover of book is wearing a uniform that doesn't match the description inside the book. Would it have been that hard to change the cover or the description so they matched? But maybe that's just me.

Recommended for: teens, fans of boarding school stories, rugby fans

Red Flags: lots of cussing, lots of references to sex, Ryan Dean's friend posts pictures of male genitalia online, the boys drink at two after-hours poker parties, there are several fight scenes that are pretty violent

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

21 August 2013

Gemini Bites

Ryan, Patrick. Gemini Bites. Scholastic, 2011.

Judy and Kyle are twins in the middle of a nine-member family.  They have been at each other's throats for years, in spite of Judy's recent supposed "conversion" to Christianity.  Then their parents decide to take in one of Judy's and Kyle's classmates, Garret, whose family is moving one month before school gets out.  Garret is a strange boy; he wears nothing but black, changes out his bedroom light bulbs for red ones, and refers to the rest of the family as "mortals."  With both Judy and Kyle crushing on Garret, is there any way this family can be saved?

This was an odd book.  First, we have the Judy/Kyle rivalry.  Judy picks on Kyle constantly and is always competing with him. Then we have Judy's fake conversion to Christianity; she did this to get close to a boy she likes.  Finally, we have Garret. He pretends he's a vampire because his family moves all the time and he's tired of trying to make friends, only to lose them again in a few months or a year when his family moves again.   Toward the end of the story, Judy and Kyle resolve their issues, Judy tells the truth to Bible boy, and Garret tells the truth about his vampirism (or lack thereof).  It had a very after school special-style ending.  Also, Judy's constant meanness to Kyle was grating. I started this book, but almost didn't keep reading because Judy was just. so. evil.  If I were stuck with no other books to read, I might pick this one up, but probably not until then.

Recommended for: teens

Red Flags: Judy has some very unsavory names for Kyle (generally related to his orientation), another boy in the school is a bit mentally unstable and attacks Garret on several occasions

Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

19 August 2013


Lindsey, Julie. Deceived. Merit Press, 2013.

Elle's father is always travelling for work, and they are always moving to a new town where Elle starts a new school.  For her senior year, Elle's father sends her to a boarding school.  Elle adjusts to life at her new school only to discover that someone is stalking her and has been stalking her for most of her life.  When her stalker makes his move, will she be able to save herself?

This book was creepy and bizarre and quite similar to The Name of the Star.  I enjoyed it, although the suspense was more intense in Star than in this book, and the girl's capture/escape was not as scary as I anticipated.

Recommended for: teens

Red Flags: intense scenes involving a serial killer stalking a girl; language; alcohol use

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

16 August 2013


Greene, Matt. Ostrich. Random House Publishing Group, 2013.

Alex is recovering from brain surgery to remove a cancerous tumor that was causing him to have seizures. Meanwhile, he is trying to survive school and get into a good high school.  This book is part Alex's journal, part English assignment.

Other reviewers have compared this book to The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-time, which is a good assessment. It is also very similar to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, in that the reader gets a very limited perspective on things and there isn't really an obvious plot of any sort.  Having heard that this book was similar to Wonder, I was really excited to read it.  Unfortunately, I was pretty disappointed.  The narrator, Alex, delights in using parenthetical comments throughout his narration, sometimes getting three or four parentheses deep, which is confusing to the reader and jarring to the flow of the story.  Also, I agree with other reviewers that the ending did not match with the rest of the book. I got quite confused as I read.  Perhaps if Alex had eavesdropped on his parents occasionally throughout the story and had overheard them talking about his recovery, the reader could have understood what was really going on while still appreciating the story from Alex's perspective. As it was, I got lost in this story, and that wasn't a good thing.

Recommended for: tweens

Red flags: some bullying, Alex's mom discusses oral sex with him after hearing him use profanity

Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

14 August 2013

The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golding

Dowding, Philippa. The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golding. Dundurn, 2014.

Gwen is just about to finish 8th grade. One morning when her mom pounds on her bedroom door, Gwen wakes up to get ready for school and finds herself on the ceiling.  Soon Gwen learns that she is a Night Flyer, a person who has the ability to fly at will.  She is mentored by one of her neighbors and has to learn to balance her new abilities with surviving junior high.

I really wanted to like this book.  The synopsis made it sound fun and interesting.  And I think it had the potential to be both fun and interesting, but the first three-quarters of the book was pretty boring. Gwen's in eighth grade, but she acts like a fifth grader, which I found a bit odd and off-putting. Also, none of the characters are really developed at all, even Gwen, so I didn't find myself rooting for her throughout the book at all. This book just fell flat for me. It had about as much intensity and excitement as a Babysitter's Club book, and it's probably intended for that age group as well.

Recommended for: middle grade only

Red Flags: Gwen's childhood friend tries to make out with her at his party, but nothing happens

Overall Rating: 3/5 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

12 August 2013

Mind Games

White, Kiersten. Mind Games. Harper Teen, 2013.

Fia has perfect instincts. When she follows her gut feelings, she does the right thing, all the time. Fia is an assassin, working for a company that is holding her sister hostage.  Her sister, Annie, is blind, but has visions of the future.  The same company is using Annie's visions to decide where to send Fia on her missions. Can Fia get Annie out of the company's grip and get them both far enough away that they'll be safe?

This was a very suspenseful, very enjoyable read.  I finished it in one sitting.  The chapters are told from both Fia's and Annie's perspectives, and there's a mix of current-day action and flashback scenes to fill in the missing information.  The chapters are short and intense. I could easily see this book being a contender for the ALA Quick Picks award this year.

Recommended for: teens and tweens, especially reluctant readers

Red Flags: some language; some violence

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

09 August 2013


MacHale, D.J. SYLO. Razorbill, 2013.

Tucker lives with his family on an island off the coast of Maine.  He prefers to remain fairly anonymous, just trying to survive high school.  Then people on his island start dying, he sees a mysterious explosion off the coast of the island, and the Marines declare a quarantine on the island and start rounding up people and placing them in internment camps.  Does Tucker have what it takes to become a hero and save his island?

I enjoyed MacHale's Pendragon series, so I was glad to see another book by this author.  This book does not disappoint.  There's plenty of mystery and intrigue involved - why is the island quarantined?  How did those people die so suddenly when they were perfectly healthy? What is that weird, red crystal the surfer guy keeps trying to push on people? Combine that with plenty of action, and I can see this being a popular read for teens and tweens.  This novel is fast-paced and could easily lend itself to a sequel.  I look forward to more good things from MacHale.

Recommended for: teens, tweens, fans of sci-fi, fans of suspenseful books

Red Flags: the Ruby that some people end up taking is pretty obviously a drug; lots of violence (people getting murdered, etc.); language

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

07 August 2013

Will in Scarlet

Cody, Matthew. Will in Scarlet. Knopf BFYR, 2013.

Will has grown up as a privileged son of nobility, but all of that changes when his family's house falls and he is forced to flee into the forest.  There he meets up with a group of bandits known as the Merry Men. His desire to avenge his family's misfortunes at the hands of Sir Guy is nearly his downfall.  Should Will attempt again to murder Sir Guy, or can he make a new life with the bandits and their leader, Rob?

This was a fun and interesting perspective on the Robin Hood story.  It took me a bit to get into this story, but after Will fled into the forest and joined the Merry Men, I was interested to see how the author would fit all of the aspects of the traditional Robin Hood tales into this new story, but I enjoyed watching how everything played out.  This is a fun, action-packed adventure story that will appeal to kids and teens alike.

Recommended for: middle grade, tweens, and teens; fans of adventure books; fans of Robin Hood stories; people who enjoy retold fairy tales

Red Flags: violence - lots of battle scenes and people being wounded; Rob is a drunk

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

06 August 2013

Over the Rainbow

Rowe, Brian. Over the Rainbow. Brian Rowe, 2013.

Zippy, a 17-year old from a very religious family, falls in love with a girl, so her father decides to send her off to an ex-gay camp so she can be cured of this disease.  At the airport, Zippy hides in someone else's luggage and sneaks onto an airplane to go meet her girlfriend in Seattle, but the plane crashes and Zippy discovers that most of the passengers are gone. Not dead: gone. Zippy teams up with a few other survivors to try to find her way to Seattle.  Oh, and there are dinosaurs everywhere now.

This book was just weird.  First, it's set in the late 1990's, so Zippy meets her girlfriend over AOL, which gives the book a bit of the You've Got Mail feeling, but without Meg Ryan. Second, when 70% of the people on earth are taken, Zippy and her dad think it's the Rapture, but then they discover that it was just people who were outside or near windows who were taken.  Why didn't they figure that out before?  We don't live on a planet where 70% of the people claim to be Christians, and Zippy's uber-Christian family would have understood that. Then there are the dinosaurs (and other long-extinct creatures). There's no explanation for the appearance of the dinosaurs, and no one seems the least bit bothered by them.  This is never resolved, either.  Everyone seems to be okay with the fact that there are now dinosaurs roaming the mostly uninhabited planet.

Finally, this book tries to be a riff on The Wizard of Oz. Zippy is traveling to "the emerald city" with Frank, Elle, and Mr. Balm.  Frank's got no brain, Mr. Balm's got no heart, and Elle's got no courage. And they have a little dog, too.  So I was expecting at the end of this book to find that maybe Zippy had been discovered in the suitcase after she hit her head, so the rest of the book was just her dream/hallucination, but no such luck.  They get to "the emerald city," Zippy is able to find her true love, and everyone lives happily ever after. With dinosaurs.

This book is so incredibly not worth anyone's time.  We don't get to know any of the characters at all, the plot makes no sense and twists around too much, and the resolution is ridiculous.  Perhaps if one were to be smoking something while reading this, it would be really intense and deep.  As it was, it wasted valuable space on my Kindle.

Recommended for: No one

Red Flags: language, Zippy's homophobic father's comments about gay people

Overall Rating: 1/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

05 August 2013

Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List

Levithan, David and Rachel Cohn. Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List. Knopf BFYR, 2007.

Ely's gay and lives with his lesbian moms. Naomi lives next door to Ely with her mom and dad.  Naomi and Ely have been best friends forever, and they even survived Naomi's dad running off with one of Ely's moms.  They also created a "No Kiss List," a list of people neither of them will kiss so that they can remain friends.  Naomi would love for them to be more than friends, but she knows that's not possible.  But when she sees Ely kiss her boyfriend, it looks like their friendship is over for good.

Although I was intrigued by the title and the storyline, I didn't like this book.  I didn't find either of the main characters sympathetic at all.  Also, I wondered why the authors put the gay boy in the family with two moms, and why Ely had to be such a stereotypical, "I'll sleep with anything I can find" kind of person.  He was having tons of hookups and boyfriends and there was no discussion of him trying to be safe or maybe getting tested for the STD's he'll inevitably have after all of that.  And Naomi was a brat.  By the end of the book, Naomi gets a bit better, and Ely is starting to think about perhaps being more exclusive with his dating, but I still didn't like either of them. I read this book because it is a fairly well-known YA LGBT book, but I don't think I would recommend it to many readers.  Perhaps teens who enjoy books like Gossip Girl might like this one, but it didn't appeal to me.

Recommended for: teens, people who enjoy books about rich kids, fans of books about New York

Red Flags: Lots of drinking and sex in this book. Occasional drug use. No violence.

Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

02 August 2013

Boyfriends with Girlfriends

Sanchez, Alex. Boyfriends with Girlfriends. Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2011.

Lance is gay. Sergio is bisexual.  Allie's had a boyfriend for years, but their relationship isn't going anywhere.  Kimiko is a lesbian.  Add to this that Kimiko's and Sergio's families don't support them in their orientations, Lance doesn't believe in bisexuality, and Allie is a manga-holic who loves everything Japanese (including Kimiko).  The four protagonists try to navigate through high school while defining themselves and what they believe about sexuality.

I read this book because it is one of the few YA books available that actually contains bisexual characters. The characters in this book are really stereotypical, which I found irritating. Also, the book kind of reads like an after school special on bisexuality.  It would be wonderful to find a book where one or more characters was bisexual and it wasn't a big deal. We've gotten there with gay and lesbian characters, but I'm still waiting for a book with a bisexual character where the book isn't trying to teach everyone about bisexuality.  Also, it bothered me that Allie and Lance, the two white kids, were best friends, while Sergio and Kimiko, the two minorities, were best friends. Overall, the story is pretty typical Sanchez, with lots of teen drama and a Disney-esque ending.  Not a bad beach read.

Recommended for: teens

Red Flags: lots of sex and mentions of sex, even though it isn't graphic

Overall Rating: 2/5 stars