Sunday, October 31, 2010

Magic and Misery--Peter Marino

Title: Magic and Misery
Author: Peter Marino
Pub date: 2009, Holiday House
Pages: 293

High School junior TJ is instantly attracted to a new transfer student who is unlike any of the boys she had ever met at her school. TJ is shy and quiet and suffers from extreme low self-esteem, but when she discovers they share the same birthday she takes a chance and speaks to the new boy, James. They hit it off right away and she thinks she may actually have a chance at a boyfriend, until he announces in class that he's gay. Although still attracted to him, TJ manages to put aside her romantic feelings and the two become best friends. There are some kids at school that are not as accepting and they bully James, calling him "pansy" and otherwise taunting him. Turning the tables on them, James calls himself "Pan" and fights the bullying with his intellect and sense of humor, until it goes too far and escalates into violence. On top of dealing with homophobic bullying, TJ and Pan also have to cope with changes to their relationship when TJ starts dating a quiet thoughtful football player.

Bullying and self-esteem are common issues in Peter Marino's novels and were dealt with in his first novel "Dough Boy" as well. In "Magic and Misery" the bullying is the secondary story, with the primary focus of the book the relationship between TJ and Pan. The dialogue between the two is the strongest part of the book. Their interactions are funny and real and Marino's writing flows in each scene with TJ and Pan. Compared to their relationship, TJ's romance with her boyfriend is less vivid and interesting. Caspar (the boyfriend) comes off as nice, but dull. The private moments between them are not as strong as with Pan. There were a few times when Marino told us what was going on, rather than showing us. Marino's writing greatly improved once the focus was back on TJ and Pan and it was clear how much fun he had writing the dialogue.

There's a side story about TJ's family and her baby brother Paolo. He communicates by screaming and shrieking, and while it's hinted that he had some kind of problem with his ears, it's never explained what's going on. It seems like the only reason it's in the book is to put TJ in awkward moments that Pan has to rescue her from because even the baby is infatuated with him. If that's the case it would have been better to just have a normal baby, because all babies have fussy times and cry at the worst moment possible, rather than play up his strange shrieking but not really go into the cause at all. But this is a minor quibble (and probably only really noticeable to me because I have a baby who likes to be loud).

Overall, the story is good, TJ is a sympathetic character, and Pan is a wonderfully written gay character. The book is just as much his story as it is TJ's. Readers looking for good positive portrayals of homosexual characters will enjoy this novel. There are sexual situations between TJ and her boyfriend that while not explicit, would not be appropriate for middle school students. But Junior High students would have no problems reading it.

Source: I received a copy of this book directly from the author. I was not compensated by him for this review and my opinions are purely my own.


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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Life is Good Award

How cool is this?


An Abundance of Books just tagged me in the "Life is Good Award." Thank you!

Rules:
1. Thank and link back to the person that gave this award.
2. Answer the 10 survey questions.
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic.
4. Contact the bloggers you’ve picked to let them know about the award.

Ok, so onto the questions:

1. If you blog anonymously are you happy doing it that way; if you are not anonymous do you wish you had started out anonymously so you could be anonymous now?

Ha. I started out anonymous. Or at least my name did not appear anywhere on the blog. More for paranoia reasons than anything else. But I'm glad that I'm going more public now. I'm not just someone who likes YA books, I was a YA librarian for 7 years, I've written professional reviews for VOYA and been immersed in YA literature for a long time. If I want to be taken seriously as a book blogger I think my readers need to know who I am & what are my qualifications.

2. Describe one incident that shows your inner stubborn side:

You'd probably have to ask my husband. 

3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror?

Myself. It's taken 35 years but I am comfortable in my skin now. I'm where and when I want to be.

4. What is your favourite summer cold drink?

Water.

5. When you take time for yourself, what do you do?

Shower. Hey, I have 3 kids. I also read, blog, twitter...

6. Is there something you still want to accomplish in your life? What is it?

I want to get paid money, real money, to read YA and write about it. 

7. When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever, the shy person, or always ditching?

Probably closer to a shy person. I had friends, but I wasn't very outgoing. I volunteered at the school library and worked at the public library. 

8. If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment of your life what would you see?

My first child being born. Literally, I happened to be sitting up when he came out so I got a good view. 

9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people or events?

It's pretty easy for me. I don't get into personal stuff on my book blog. I save that for the ahem, personal blog. 

10. If you had the choice to sit down and read or talk on the phone, which would you do and why?


READ. I only use the phone to order pizza.

Now, to pass this on to 15 FANTASTIC bloggers:
1. Librarina
2. Bookshelves of Doom
3. Makeshift Bookmark
4. Good Books & Good Wine
5. YA Addict
6. Young Adult Books Reviewed
7. Reclusive Bibliophile
8. The Broke and the Bookish
9. Frazzled Book Nommer
10. Galleysmith
11. WORD for Teens
12. Dreaming in Books
13. Tutor Girl Reads
14. The Story Siren
15. The Compulsive Reader


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I'm an Amazon Associate now. If you click on the Amazon links & buy anything I might make a tiny bit of money.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Book Blogger Hop 10/29

Book Blogger Hop
The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books.

This week's question is:

"What is the one bookish thing you would love to have, no matter the cost?"

I would love to have a constant babysitter so I can spend every minute of my day reading and not have to change diapers, feed children, do dishes & laundry, etc. Aside from that I'd also like an e-book reader. :-)

Thanks to the Book Blogger Hop, I am now following both Crazy for Books and Makeshift Bookmark

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I'm an Amazon Associate now. If you click on the Amazon links & buy anything I might make a tiny bit of money.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Look for Me by Moonlight--Mary Downing Hahn

From the Vault
This review was originally written--handwritten no less--in August 1999 before the Age of Blogs. I'm not editing it at all because I don't believe in tampering with history. For other old reviews, click on the "From the Vault" tag.

Title: Look for Me by Moonlight
Author: Mary Downing Hahn
1995
Genre: horror; supernatural
Subjects: vampires, ghosts, family, mind control

Summary: 16 year old Cynda feels lonely and unwanted when she moves in with her father and his new wife and child. Then a mysterious older man stays at the inn with them and pays special attention to her. "Ill come to you by moonlight" was the secret message hidden in the scrabble board. But was it "I'll" or "Ill"? Cynda wonders and you will too.

Critique: The book slowly builds to its climax, we are swept away with Cynda as Vincent tells her what she wants to hear. Once it's clear what Vincent really wants, the books becomes truly scary as we see how much control he has over Cynda. 

Recommendation: Yes.******
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

YA Authors You Need to Read: Maryrose Wood

This article was posted on the examiner.com on October 27, 2010.

This is another article in a series profiling young adult authors you need to read now. When people think of YA literature many of them think of classic authors like Judy Bloom, Norma Fox Mazer, and Chris Crutcher, but there are a whole slew of YA authors for today’s teens (and adult fans of YA lit) that should not be missed.
Maryrose Wood grew up on Long Island and moved to New York City at the tender age of 17. She planned to study acting but dropped out to be in a Broadway play. The play flopped and she spent a few years acting, directing and appearing at comedy clubs before she turned to writing. She published her first YA novel in 2006 and since then she’s written five more books for teens. She’s no stranger to social media and participated in an AOL Instant Messenger chat with teens at the East Greenbush Community Library many years ago, straying from her talk about writing to give the YA Librarian at the time (current Albany YA Fiction Examiner) some potty training advice. Wood appeared at the local Albany Children’s Book Festival and the Hudson City Book Festival this past spring.
Wood’s first YA book was “Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall in Love.” It’s a title that raises eyebrows, but once squeamish readers open up the book they discover a delightfully innocent story of young love. Felicia and her best friends Jess and Kat attend a new-age private school in NYC. They don't have traditional classes or homework and are instead supposed to work on special projects and motivate themselves. They call each other Kittens because of a chance encounter with a special kitten tarot card deck that brings them together as friends. Boys are naturally Dawgs. Felicia is in love with one Dawg in particular but he doesn't seem interested in her. So she comes up with a crazy plan--a science experiment about love--in order to attract his attention. Click here for the Goddess Librarian review.
Other Books for teens
  • “My Life the Musical”
  • “Why I Let My Hair Grow Out”
  • “How I Found the Perfect Dress”
  • “What I Wore to Save the World”
  • “The Poison Diaries”
You can find more information about Wood on her blog/website, her facebook page, and twitter.

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I'm an Amazon Associate now. If you click on the Amazon links & buy anything I might make a tiny bit of money.

Monday, October 25, 2010

YA Authors You Need to Read: Laurie Halse Anderson


This article is cross-posted at the Examiner.
This is another article in a series profiling young adult authors you need to read now. When people think of YA literature many of them think of classic authors like Judy Blume, Norma Fox Mazer, and Chris Crutcher, but there are a whole slew of YA authors for today’s teens (and adult fans of YA lit) that should not be missed.
Semi-local (Syracuse area) author Laurie Halse Anderson is the author of numerous books for teens and tweens. Her books have received major accolades—two of them were National Book Award finalists and she herself was honored with the Margaret A. Edwards Award given by YALSA for her “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature…”. She’s no stranger to controversy, however, and would-be book banners have challenged her books. The latest attempt was the Wesley Scroggins incident. Read about it here.
Anderson’s first YA book and her most often challenged one is “Speak.” It tells the story of a young girl who begins her freshman year in high school alone and friendless because of an incident at a party the summer before. Melinda must learn to accept the truth of that incident and tell others the real truth before she can begin to heal. “Speak” is gripping and realistic as Melinda sinks further and further into depression. It is a hugely important novel that should be shared between mothers and daughters everywhere.
Other Books(for teens)
  • “Catalyst” (East Greenbush YA Librarian Chrissie Morrison’s review)
  • “Prom” (Morrison’s review)
  • “Twisted” (Morrison’s review)
  • “Wintergirls” (Morrison’s review)
  • “Fever 1793”  (Morrison’s review)
  • “Chains”
  • “Forge”
You can find more information about Anderson on her website, like her on facebook, and follow her on twitter.

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I'm an Amazon Associate now. If you click on the Amazon links & buy anything I might make a tiny bit of money.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

YA Authors You Need to Read: Suzanne Collins

This article is cross-posted at the Examiner

This is another article in a series profiling young adult authors you need to read now. When people think of YA literature many of them think of classic authors like Judy Blume, Norma Fox Mazer, and Chris Crutcher, but there are a whole slew of YA authors for today’s teens (and adult fans of YA lit) that should not be missed.

Suzanne Collins started out writing for children’s television shows. She’s worked on Clarissa Explains It All and other popular Nickelodeon shows. Collins is well know for “Gregor the Overlander,” the first in a 5 book series called “The Underland Chronicles,” as well as the “Hunger Games” trilogy.

When “The Hunger Games” begins it is easy to think that it takes place in a long ago primitive time when people had to live off the land and were brutal and cruel just to survive. Although Katniss is just a young teen she is the hunter of the family, bringing home rabbits and squirrels to feed her starving mother and younger sister. Food is scarce in her district and the hunting is illegal but mostly overlooked. As Katniss tells her story we learn that it does not take place long ago, but rather is in the future. War has obliterated the United States as we know it and has been replaced by 13 districts called Panem. Like the 13 colonies that created the United States, they rebelled against an oppressive government. Unlike those 13 colonies, they lost. In retaliation the government of Panem destroyed the 13th district and rule the other isolated 12 districts with an iron fist. “The Hunger Games” brings together the horrific entertainment of our past—the Gladiator games—with the voyeuristic sadism of our present—reality shows—and gives us a future with human nature at its worst. The dystopian story continues in “Catching Fire” and concludes in the recent release “Mockingjay.” For a full review, click here.

Other Books

  • “Gregor The Overlander”
  • “Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane”
  • “Gregor And The Curse Of The Warmbloods”
  • “Gregor And The Marks Of Secret”
  • “Gregor And The Code Of Claw”
  • “The Hunger Games” (Goddess Librarian review)
  • “Catching Fire” (Goddess Librarian review)
  • “Mockingjay” (Goddess Librarian review)


You can find more information about Collins at her website.


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I'm an Amazon Associate now. If you click on the Amazon links & buy anything I might make a tiny bit of money.

YA Authors You Need to Read: Melina Marchetta

This article is being cross-posted at the Examiner.

This is another article in a series profiling young adult authors you need to read now. When people think of YA literature many of them think of classic authors like Judy Blume, Norma Fox Mazer, and Chris Crutcher, but there are a whole slew of YA authors for today’s teens (and adult fans of YA lit) that should not be missed.


Melina Marchetta is an Australian author who translates well to an American audience. Her first novel “Looking for Alibrandi” was published in 1992 and released as a feature film in 2000. It was so popular with teens it was dubbed the “most stolen library book.” Her third novel, “Jellicoe Road,” won the ALA’s Printz Award in 2009.

Marchetta’s latest American release is “Finnikin of the Rock.” Young Finnikin dreamt that he needed to sacrifice a pound of flesh to save his kingdom. The son of the Captain of the Guard, Finnikin took the protection of his kingdom very seriously and convinced his two young friends--the king's son Balthazar and his cousin Lucien-- to make a blood oath to protect the kingdom they all loved. Finnikin thinks the matter is settled... and then the five days of the unspeakable happens. The King, Queen, Prince and Princesses are all slaughtered by assassins, the people turn on each other and Finnikin's father is banished from the kingdom. When things can't get any worse, a magical spell is cast dividing the kingdom from the rest of the world, trapping half the population within its borders and excluding the other half. For the full review, click here.


Other Books
  • “Looking For Alibrandi”
  • “Saving Francesca”
  • “Jellicoe Road” (Goddess Librarian review; East Greenbush YA Librarian Chrissie Morrison’s review)
  • “The Piper’s Son” (Available in Australia now and in the US in March 2011)
You can find more information about Marchetta at her website.

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I'm an Amazon Associate now. If you click on the Amazon links & buy anything I might make a tiny bit of money.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Button testing... please ignore


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I'm an Amazon Associate now. If you click on the Amazon links & buy anything I might make a tiny bit of money.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Echoes--Melinda Metz

Title: "Echoes "
Author: Melinda Metz
Pub date: 2001, 2010 Alloy Entertainment
517 pages.

"Echoes" was originally published in 2001 as the first three books in the Fingerprints series. It looks like the author did some updating in this edition because there are references to the TV show Lost and other pop culture ties that weren't around in 2001.

Rae Voight is a normal high school student with friends and a jock boyfriend. She's relatively happy even though her mom died in a mental hospital when she was very young and she knows her mother really belonged in a prison for doing something horrible. She manages to repress her feelings about her mother and live the perfect high school life, until the day she goes insane. She starts having thoughts that are not her own and has a mental breakdown in the cafeteria at school. She's shipped to a mental hospital for the summer where she meets Yana, a young girl who befriends her, and then returns home to try to pick up the pieces of her life. Her boyfriend and friends are all awkward around her and worst of all the strange thoughts in her head have NOT gone away. She meets a boy, Anthony, in group therapy and together they figure out that she is not crazy.

The book started out a little slow. Rae had clearly never watched or read anything supernatural because she never once thought she was reading minds which was my first guess. Once she and Anthony figure out that she's actually picking up other people's thoughts through her fingertips the story really picks up. She is able to touch things that others--or herself--have touched and read their thoughts at the time they touched it. Rae can sense their emotions as well. It's an incredibly useful gift for someone who is being targeted by a stalker. By the end of the book Rae and Anthony have figured out that someone is watching her and plotting revenge because of her mother's actions.

Once Rae has accepted her gift, the book really moves along and it's hard to put down. It reads like a TV show and it's no surprise that it was optioned as one (though it didn't last long). Metz wrote the Roswell book series that the TV show was based on and has a talent for writing exciting adventurous books for teens with good snappy dialogue. This book will leave you wanting to finish the series and find out what happens to Rae and Anthony and Yana (who I don't trust but that's just a hunch).

I received a free copy of this book from the author. I was not compensated in any way for this review.
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I'm an Amazon Associate now. If you click on the Amazon links & buy anything I might make a tiny bit of money.

Our first giveaway!

And by our, I mean, my, because this is a solo operation but doesn't "our" sound better?

Title: "Breaking Dawn"
Author: Stephenie Meyer

To enter:

1. Leave me a comment saying why you want to win this book.
2. Follow this blog and let me know in the comments.

For additional entries:

1. Like my facebook page and leave me a comment telling me you did so.
2. Follow me on twitter and leave me a comment telling me you did so.
3. Retweet the link on twitter and leave me a comment telling me you did so.
4. Share the link on facebook and leave me a comment telling me you did so.

Just to clarify--in order to maximize your chances of winning you need to leave a SEPARATE comment for each entry. 

Because this is my first giveaway, the deadline is one month from now. You have until November 10 to enter.

I received this book as a gift from a friend. I am not being compensated in any way by passing it on to you (unless you click the amazon link and buy something and then I would make a tiny commission from that).

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I'm an Amazon Associate now. If you click on the Amazon links & make a purchase I might make a tiny bit of money.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Thirsty--M.T. Anderson

From the Vault
This review was originally written--handwritten no less--in July 1999 before the Age of Blogs. I'm not editing it at all because I don't believe in tampering with history. For other old reviews, click on the "From the Vault" tag.



"Thirsty"
M.T. Anderson
1997
genre: horror
subjects: vampires; puberty

Summary: Chris must choose between the forces of darkness and the light and fight for his soul as he unwillingly turns into a vampire.

Critique: Suspenseful and funny, "Thirsty" blends teenage angst with vampire bloodlust is a unique and creative way. Definitely a quick read, the book keeps the reader engrossed in the struggle between good and evil.

Recommendation: Yes


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I'm an Amazon Associate now. If you click on the Amazon links & buy anything I might make a tiny bit of money.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Guest post

I've written a guest post at Teach YA Lit  about why I read and love YA fiction. You should take a look. And then look at the rest of the site too! 

While you're looking at things, you can glance over to the left of the words you're reading now and either click the "follow" button if you have a google account, or click the "like" button if you have a facebook, or "follow" me on twitter. If you do all three I'll do a cartwheel (not really, but you'll never know will you?)

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I'm an Amazon Associate now. If you click on the Amazon links & make a purchase I might make a tiny bit of money.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Finnikin of the Rock--Melina Marchetta

Young Finnikin dreamt that he needed to sacrifice a pound of flesh to save his kingdom. The son of the Captain of the Guard, Finnikin took the protection of his kingdom very seriously and convinced his two young friends--the king's son Balthazar and his cousin Lucien-- to make a blood oath to protect the kingdom they all loved. Finnikin thinks the matter is settled... and then the five days of the unspeakable happens. The king, queen, prince and princesses are all slaughtered by assassins, the people turn on each other and Finnikin's father is banished from the kingdom. When things can't get any worse, a magical spell is cast dividing the kingdom from the rest of the world, trapping half the population within its borders and excluding the other half.

10 years later Finnikin is awoken by the whisper of a name--Balthazar--and begins a dangerous journey hoping to find the young prince still alive. He is led by Evanjalin, a mysterious young woman who claims she can "walk the sleep" of the people trapped inside the castle grounds. Finnikin finds himself hoping that his country and his people can be saved, but can he really trust Evanjalin?

Most people who don't read fantasy books think that it's all about magic or fantastic creatures or things that just can't happen in real life. But good fantasy, nearly all good fantasy, is really just a commentary on things that DO happen in real life. It's easier to accept that these people in a fantasy world would rape and murder each other after a tragic event. We feel outraged reading about it because it goes against the nature of our souls. But these things do happen in our world--genocide, racism, rape and murder. We need to be just as outraged.

Marchetta is a realistic fiction writer who most recently won the Printz Award for the wonderful "Jellicoe Road." "Finnikin of the Rock" is her first fantasy novel and hopefully not her last. The standard elements of fantasy are in this book--the quest, the magic, the battle between good and evil. But Marchetta brings so much more to the genre with "Finnikin of the Rock." The characters are three dimensional and dynamic. The story is good, but the characters kept me reading. There have been quite a few strong heroine books lately (which is GOOD) but I really liked how Evanjalin and Finnikin needed each other to survive and to save their people. As strong and capable as Evanjalin is, she could not do it alone and neither could Finnikin.

There's some romance in the book, but just enough to satisfy girls and not too much to turn off boys. I wouldn't call this a "girl book."

I couldn't put this book down, except when I had to chase my newly walking baby-toddler in the library. Marchetta writes interesting quality books, whether they be realistic or fantasy, and I look forward to her future releases.
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I'm an Amazon Associate now. If you click on the Amazon links & make a purchase I might make a tiny bit of money.

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