Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Meet the Author: Julie Chibbaro

If you enjoyed my review of Deadly, you should check out the interview I did with the author over at the examiner.

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

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Deadly--Julie Chibbaro

Title: Deadly
Author: Julie Chibbaro
Publisher: Atheneum, 2011
Pages: 293 p
Source: Publisher
Compensation: None

When I was first contacted to review this book I was a little hesitant. I'm not a big fan of historical fiction. There are exceptions, but for the most part I'm a fantasy/science fiction gal. But the author is coming to a local book festival so I thought I'd give it a chance.

I'm so glad I did.

Prudence is a young Jewish girl living in New York City in the early 1900s. She attends a part time finishing school so that she can aspire to be a secretary or a book keeper, more "proper" careers for women than her mother's job as a midwife. She assists her mother with births and longs to do something more with her mind than take dictation and type notes. Her school allows students to take jobs in the afternoons and urges them to seek secretarial positions. Prudence applies for one at the Department of Health and Sanitation and her keen mind and interest in science and medicine make her an attractive addition to their team. She's hired not as a secretary, but as an assistant to a Sanitation Engineer investigating the causes of diseases and why they spread. Prudence winds up leaving her school and working full time for the office hunting the source of recent typhoid outbreaks--Typhoid Mary.

The novel is written in diary format and told from Prudence's point of view. Chibbaro lets the historical setting come through in Prudence's speech and actions without being preachy. While Prudence is aware of the women's lib movement, she has no idea that women can go to medical school and be doctors. She dreams of contributing to society in a big meaningful way--fighting death on the scientific level--and is amazed that her dream can be reality and not just fantasy.

The investigation of Typhoid Mary and how they connect the dots between her and various typhoid outbreaks is fascinating. The story reads like a suspenseful scientific mystery. Prudence plays a large role in discovering the connection between the healthy Irish cook Mary and the typhoid afflicted communities.

There are side plots as well--Prudence's missing father, forbidden office romance, changing friendships, and growing up--but the main story of the investigation is the most engrossing. There's nothing in here not appropriate for middle school students. This is a good choice for those historical fiction reports. An author's note explains which characters were based on real people and which were invented and how the author changed the timeframe to suit the fictional story (what took place over the course of years is condensed to just months). Fans of historical fiction will not be disappointed.

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

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Last Little Blue Envelope--Maureen Johnson

Title: The Last Little Blue Envelope
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: HarperCollins, expected date April 26, 2011
Pages: 213 p (eBook edition)
Source: Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher

As I mentioned in my review of the first book, 13 Little Blue Envelopes, I got lucky that I had somehow overlooked it and didn't have to wait six long years for this one to be published.

If you too have been under a rock and haven't read the first book, go do that now and then come back here. Although I try to keep my reviews as spoiler-free as possible, any discussion of the sequel is going to spoil elements of the first. You have been warned.

We last left Ginny heading back to the states with some extra money in her pocket. Although her backpack had been stolen--along with her little blue envelopes, including the 13th unopened one--she was able to discover her aunt's hidden artwork and auction it off to the highest bidder. She returned home with more than just money though, she also left with a serious crush on Keith, the Londoner with whom she had "kind of something" by the end of her first journey.

The Last Little Blue Envelope opens up with Ginny preparing her college applications and wondering why her once daily communication with Keith has slowed down. She gets the perfect chance to investigate when she receives an e-mail from an English man claiming that he has her backpack and her envelopes. If she wants them back she needs to meet him in England. Ginny agrees and heads back to Europe for more foreign adventures. It's not all fun and games though since the mysterious English man decides to blackmail her for return of the envelopes and Keith seems to be hiding some secrets of his own. But Ginny soon learns that people are not always what they seem.

Johnson has once again written a funny adventure story that will also tug at your heartstrings. She wraps up all the unanswered questions in a clever and satisfying way. When we leave Ginny this time, we know that she'll be okay. Fans of the first book will devour this one.

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

Sunday, March 27, 2011

13 Little Blue Envelopes--Maureen Johnson

Title: 13 Little Blue Envelopes
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2005
Pages: 317 p
Source: Local library

I have no idea why I didn't read this book back in 2005. None. I only had one child. I was not yet pregnant with my second. I was still a YA librarian. But, as it turns out, I'm glad I didn't read it back then. Why? Because I didn't have to wait 6 years for the sequel!

17 year old Ginny receives a mysterious letter from her aunt instructing her to pack a backpack, leave her home and prepare to go overseas. The first letter leads her to her aunt's apartment in NYC and a bundle of little blue envelopes--all containing letters to be opened at specific points throughout her journey. It's a little like a scavenger hunt. Ginny has no idea where she's heading or what her ultimate goal is because she follows the rules faithfully and doesn't open the envelopes until she is directed to. The biggest mystery though is how her aunt was able to pull all of this off when she's dead.

Ginny starts off as a quiet shy reserved character forced to step out of her comfort zone and ends up strong and confident. She finds unexpected romance and friendship during her travels and leaves her foreign vacation a much deeper and richer person. By the end of her journey there are still some questions about her aunt's life and death and the direction that Ginny's life will take, but don't worry. The sequel will be released on April 26, 2011.

Johnson has written an emotional and meaningful book about identity, grief, and growing up. She's done all this while maintaining the humor we've come to expect from her.

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

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Goddess Test--Aimee Carter

Title: The Goddess Test
Author: Aimee Carter
Publisher: Harlequin Teen, expected date April 19, 2011
Pages: 304 p
Source: Netgalley courtesy of Harlequin Teen
Compensation: None

I requested this as an eGalley through the wonderful Netgalley website and was lucky enough to be approved. The only downside is that now I have to wait even longer for the sequel to come out since this one isn't supposed to be released until April 19, 2011.

There have been a slew of "paranormal romance" books lately thanks to the success of Twilight. It's hard to find one that hasn't been done before. Vampires and werewolves have been making the rounds for a long LONG time. Luckily though, every once in a while someone comes up with a different story. Aimee Carter has done that with The Goddess Test.

The Goddess Test opens up with a curious prologue that immediately sets the mysterious tone--Henry and Diana are examining a young dead girl and questioning why the girls keep failing and dying. Attention is switched to the main story with 18 year old Kate driving her dying mother to her childhood home. Kate is only interested in prolonging her mother's life and spending as much time with her as she can, but she's reluctantly drawn into high school drama. Things turn ugly when she agrees to go to a party with another high school girl Ava, who winds up dying. A mysterious man--Henry--appears and offers her a chance to revive her friend but only if she will agree to his proposal. Shocked and traumatized, Kate agrees to spend six months of the year with him, like the Greek Persephone myth.

It is nearly impossible to write a good summary of this book without spoiling all of the wonderful twists and turns.

Kate is a strong sympathetic character. She's had a rough life, caring for her ailing mother for most of her teen years. It's made her appreciate other people's lives, even if she's not overly open to friendships. All of Kate's actions are understandable and make sense for her character. The inevitable romance between Henry and Kate begins slowly and builds up deliciously until we are rooting for Henry as much as for Kate. The story is not all romance though, there's mystery and mythology as well. The Goddess Test is very well written and completely engaging. It is most definitely an engrossing page-turner (or the equivalent on an iPad) that is hard to put down. I'm anxiously awaiting the sequel (and hoping I can read that one early too!).
I'm an Amazon Associate now. If you click on the Amazon links & buy anything I might make a tiny bit of money.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Virtual Life of Lexie Diamond--Victoria Foyt

Title: The Virtual Life of Lexie Diamond
Author: Victoria Foyt
Publisher: HarperTempest
Pages: 310 p.
Source: The publisher
Compensation: None

14 year old Lexie Diamond has a strange worldview. She's sure that she's just a virtual pet trapped in a meaningless existence while the real masters of the universe watch life on Earth and laugh at all the clueless humans. She doesn't have any friends and spends all her time on the internet--the only place where she feels at home. She's mostly okay with this until a horrible tragedy happens and her mother is killed in a car accident. Her estranged father moves in to take care of Lexie, bringing along his new girlfriend, Jane. Lexie is still in shock and denial about her mom's accident, resentful of her father's new relationship, when she sees and hears her mom--through the internet.

Victoria Foyt has written a really interesting novel. Lexie's worldview is so messed up that we wonder if she is a reliable narrator until the very end of the novel (no, I won't tell you if she is or not. You'll have to read for yourself.) Is she really seeing her mom alive on the internet? Are her fears and suspicions of Jane--that she is responsible for her mom's death--accurate? Or is Lexie just a grieving lonely girl looking for someone to blame? Foyt does a good job of keeping us guessing, while keeping Lexie a sympathetic character. In Lexie's quest for the truth she's forced to accept help from unlikely people and make connections in the real world and not just online. She grows as a person.

Science fiction fans and computer geeks will be attracted to the cover of this book, but mystery fans will also like its suspenseful plot. Although the main character is a girl, boys shouldn't have a problem reading this. There's nothing inappropriate for middle school readers.
I'm an Amazon Associate now. If you click on the Amazon links & buy anything I might make a tiny bit of money.

Blog Archive