Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lock and Key

Book Info
Lock and Key By Sarah Dessen

Ruby is used to taking care of herself. But now she's living in a fancy new house with her sister Cora—a sister she hasn't seen in ten years—and her husband Jamie—creator of one of the most popular online networking sites. She's attending private school, wearing new clothes, and for the first time, feels the promise of a future that include college and her family. So why is she so wary? And what is Nate— the adorable and good-hearted boy next door— hiding behind his genial nature? As Ruby starts to see, there's a big difference between being given help, and being able to accept it. And sometimes, in order to save yourself, you've got to reach out to someone else.

My Thoughts
I was stuck at jury duty all day yesterday and I am so glad I stuck this book in my purse. This book kept me entertained the entire time I was sitting in the jury waiting room and when I went to Starbucks to chill during the afternoon break. Sarah Dessen was rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors and this book may just have just deemed her worthy of an entire shelf ala Meg Cabot (she has about three shelves). Anyways, this book dealt with many rough issue- parental abandonment, abuse, drugs, drinking, and letting people in when all you know is how to push them away. As with all of Dessen's books the supporting characters are full of life. I can see Olivia and Ruby sitting in the movie ticket box getting to know one another, Cora's pain of not knowing what to do with the sister she has not seen in ten years, and Jamie trying so hard to include Ruby in all the family events. Nate is the love interest and boy next store. He seems perfect but as with all of Dessen's characters there are flaws and a constant struggle to know how much of yourself you should give to others. Highly recommend this book!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Oddest of All by Bruce Coville

Book Info

Oddest of All by Bruce Coville

Grades 6-8

Fans of Bruce Coville’s wonderfully weird storytelling will be thrilled to know that the expert of odd is back with a new collection of nine curious and thought-provoking tales. From stories about a girl who learns the horrifying secrets about what’s really at the bottom of a murky, desolate pond, a strange chemical factory causing mutations in frogs, and a Halloween mask that becomes a gruesome clue in the disappearance of a child, the odd adventures in this new collection are filled with terrifying and ghoulish details. In the eerie, surreal tradition of Edgar Allan Poe, these reveries are sure to linger in the minds of readers.
My Thoughts

I picked this up for a dollar at the Half-Price Books clearance shelf because Coville wrote the wonderful Unicorn Chronicles (BTW for all the fans of that series- the last book is coming out in March). This is apparently the fourth collection of short stories in his Oddities series and it was a wild ride filled with aliens, ghosts, and a descendant of the original frog prince. Overall it is a great collection of short stories that range from horror, sci-fi, and fantasy.
Stories include:

In Our Own Hands

In which everyone on Earth has to decide if they should relinquish their control to an alien species that would solve all their problems.
What's the Worst That Could Happen?
Is a great look at the realistic horrors of being a teenager with a crush.
The Ghost Let Go
The typical ghost story featuring Nina Tanleven from The Ghost in the Third Row, The Ghost Wore Gray, and The Ghost in the Big Brass Bed.

In the Frog King's Court
The descendant of the oringial frog prince has the chance to save his long forgotten family from toxic waste dumping.

The Thing in Auntie Alma's Pond
The lake is calling out to Margaret but her paralyzing fear of water keeps her stuck in the inbetween.

The Hardest, Kindest Gift
A fairy tale filled with love, jealousy, and redemption. Will Geoffroi be able to break the family curse that has cause so much pain?

The Mask of Eamonn Tiyado
A haunting look at how wanting to be someone else might not be all that it is cracked up to be.

Herbert Hutchison in the Underworld
Will Herbert's good luck last when a car wreck sends him to the underworld or will curiosity be the end of him.

The Boy with Silver Eyes
A tale from the world of the Unicorn Chronicles. From a family of unicorn hunters comes a boy who only wants to learn the songs of Earth, Fire, Water, and Magic.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

Book Info
Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
Age Range: 9 to 12

Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, ferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt's always wanted; convinced he's lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist's granddaughter, Kate, that he realizes that the man's ravings may, in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.

My Thoughts
I randomly bought this book at a trip to Barnes and Noble with some extra Christmas money and I'm glad I did! This book was an exciting adventure that featured Matt, a cabin boy on the great airship Aurora and Kate, a wealthy passanger in search of the mysterious air creatures her grandfather saw. Matt and Kate are both racing through life trying to out run the unhappiness of a loved ones death but the story is not bogged down in depression. It instead makes the characters more believable and all the more likeable. I would compare this book with Treasure Island with a steampunk twist. The airship is great and I could actually feel myself in the crowsnest with Matt or in the jungle hunting cloud cats with Kate. Great book and I will definitely be searching for the next to books Skybreaker and Starclimber.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gothic Thrillers/Romances

I took a break from YA Lit this weekend and read Sons of the Wolf by Barbara Michaels and The House at Riverton by Kate Morton. I was in a Gothic Thriller/Romance mood and could not get it out of my head. I blame PBS and the special Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind 'Little Women'. There was a section on the gothic serials she wrote to earn an income for her impoverished family. Sometimes my mind needs a break and reading about damsels in distress, wicked guardians, and ancient ruins just make me relax. I start my next round of classes today and I'm putting a deposit on an apartment this week.

Sons of the Wolf is more of a classic gothic thriller:
Ada and Harriet don't know what to expect when they meet their new guardian, Mr. Wolfson. Here is a strangely magnetic, darkly amusing man confined to a wheelchair and flanked by a pair of fierce, dangerous dogs—an enigmatic benefactor, at once welcoming and intimidating. Even more unsettling to the girls are Wolfson's two sons, Julian and Francis. One of them is warm and good-natured, the other is pure malevolence. But young Harriet is about to discover a frightening truth: that evil runs rampant throughout their mysterious new home, Abbey Manor, and the surrounding moors—especially when the moon comes out.

The House at Riverton is more a romantic suspense like Rebecca:
For decades, Grace Reeves has kept secret the truth of a poet's violent death by the lake at Riverton House in Oxfordshire. Now at the end of her life, 98-year-old Grace's memory is swept back, after interviews for a film about the tragic incident, to those years of her service for the Hartford family. At 15, Grace begins her adult life as a housemaid in the grand Riverton House, quickly learning her place in the servant hierarchy. Her loyalty and attachment to Hannah and Emmeline Hartford grow over the years, as the Hartford family is affected by war, death, financial failings, and illicit love.

Other Gothic Books:
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

I will be back to reading YA lit this week. I hope to finish Airborn by Kenneth Oppel. This is more of a Steampunk novel and part of a trilogy. I started it last night and so far it is a lot of fun!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Beauty and the Beast Books

I have been thinking a lot about fairy tales and their retellings. I love a good twist on a theme. The story of Beauty and the Beast has been retold several times and this author decided to write the story twice. However, each retelling is unique and a beautiful love story. I also highly recommend Beauty by Robin McKinley. I also recommend La Belle et la Bete. It is a french film that captured the early tellings of the story very well. Plus it is gorgeously filmed and Belle's wardrobe is one I dream about at night.

Book Info

Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley


"It is the heart of this place, and it is dying," says the Beast. And it is true; the center of the Beast's palace, the glittering glasshouse that brings Beauty both comfort and delight in her strange new environment, is filled with leafless brown rosebushes. But deep within this enchanted world, new life, at once subtle and strong, is about to awaken. Twenty years ago Robin McKinley enthralled readers with the power of Beauty. Now this extraordinarily gifted novelist retells the story of Beauty and the Beast again—but in a totally new way, with fresh perspective, ingenuity, and mature insight. In Rose Daughter she has written her finest and most deeply felt work, a compelling, richly imagined, and haunting exploration of the transformative power of love.

My Thoughts

This is my favorite retelling of Beauty and the Beast! No offence to Beauty (by the same author) but this book is one that I usually read once or twice a year. The story tells of three beautiful sisters who move to the country after their father looses his fortune and how they forge a new life. Jeweltounge and Lionheart each take on jobs in town while Beauty tends to the garden. To her surprise the ugly bare bushes bllom into beautiful roses and everyone believes that she is a Hedgewitch. The sisters are not evil as they are in the original fairy tale and they grow as characters and sisters. The story becomes even more interesting when Beauty is sent to the Beast's castle and is there for seven days, each day brings a new animal: a bat, hedgehogs, toads, and even kittiens. We all know that Beauty is going to fall in love with the Beast but the ending is a twist that is beautiful and sweet. Go and read it!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

From Far Away

Book Info
From Far Away
by Kyoko Hikawa

Noriko, an ordinary schoolgirl, has slipped into a mysterious world of magic and flying dragons, which is in chaos due to the ancient foresaying of The Awakening. Every kingdom in the world is in search for the Awakening as they believe that it has the power to control the Sky Demon, the most destructive monster. Noriko meets Izark, the lonesome warrior, and accompanies him. Izark was born with a mysterious power that makes people hate him and causes him to travel alone. He came here in order to change his fate by trying to kill the Awakening only to find out that the Awakening is Noriko. As she travels with him, it gets harder for them to talk as they speak different languages.
The story continues on about Izark and his transformations, and his growing love for clueless Noriko. Noriko also realizes her feelings for Izark and a battle between Light and Dark commences as Rachef, Leader of Rienka, tries to take over.

My Thoughts
This is my favorite manga because of it's simplistic drawing style and beautiful story telling. I really liked the fact that when Noriko is sent to this new world she struggles to learn a new language and has to overcome the language barrier to communicate. To often authors give make up a spell or "language skills" to those that are transported to new worlds.
Also Noriko is a well rounded character that does freak out when she first arrives but realizes that she must stay calm to stay alive and not be a burden to those who help her. That is the real reason she really starts to learn the new language, she wants to help a wounded merchant but can not understand what he needs.
The drawing style is a bit older than more recent manga's that have come out but it's uncluttered and clean which brings the story into focus. The series is 14 volumes long but is filled with action, humor and romance.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Mysterious Benedict Society

Book Info
The Mysterious Benedict Society (Mysterious Benedict Society Series #1)
by Trenton Lee Stewart
illustrated by Carson Ellis

ARE YOU A GIFTED CHILD Looking for special opportunities?
When this peculiar ad appears in the newspaper, dozens of children enroll to take a series of mysterious, mind-bending tests. (And you, dear listener, can test your wits right alongside them.) But in the end just four very special children will succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and resourceful children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. As our heroes face physical and mental trials beyond their wildest imaginations, they have no choice but to turn to each other for support. But with their newfound friendship at stake, will they be able to pass the most important test of all? Welcome to the mysterious benedict society

My Thoughts
Again, this was a book that I knew nothing about other than the fact it received several good reviews. I was pleasently suprised by how much I enjoyed the story. Reynie is recruited by Mr. Benedict to stop the evil Mr. Curtain from taking over the world. Along with Sticky Washington, a nervous child with a photographic memory; irrepressible Kate Weatherhill; and a tiny child who lives up to her name, Constance Contraire. These children all have their quirks but working together they find a common bond and the family they always longed for.
This book felt like a cross between Harry Potter and The Series of Unfortunate Events but had its own unique quaility that earnen it a starred review in both School Library Journal and Booklist.
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