Sunday, September 19, 2010

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

This was another of the Penguin YA advanced readers books I got back in August. Wasn't sure if I'd like it. The cover is a little freaky for my taste. I know, I know, don't judge a book by its cover, but be honest, it's hard not to just a little. Anyway, this is another new take on werewolves and love triangles. Once I got into it, I really wanted to keep reading and finish it. Our main character is Calla. She is the alpha wolf of her pack, the nightshades. Since she was a baby she has been promised to marry Renier, the alpha male of another pack, the Wolfbanes. The plan is to combine the two packs into one in order to create a new young pack. In this case, the werewolves are guardians for the Keepers. They protect sacred sites from the Searchers.

The book begins with Calla saving a hiker from a grizzly bear. Something she shouldn't do. She even changes from a wolf to human form to save his life by giving him her blood. Now you might think this is how to create a new werewolf, but it is actually only part of it. They also have some incantation they must recite at the same time, so no, the hiker isn't changed. However, he soon shows up at the private school, in Vail, where Calla and Ren go to school. Turns out, his name is Shay, and he is the nephew of a big wig in the Keepers. And his uncle asks the young wolves to keep an eye out for him. Shay of course remembers what happened to him with Calla. And is intrigued by her. He also knows there are mysterious things going on in this school/town, and sets out to find out what is going on.

Calla is also intrigued by Shay. But one thing we can't tell for sure from this book is if she loves both Shay and Ren. It seems that she cares for both. And while she does tell Shay she loves him, she doesn't say it to Ren, but from her reactions to Ren's advances, it would seem she is interested in some way.

The end is quite a cliffhanger. It seems, as always, that the Keepers aren't quite the good guys that Calla was brought up to believe. And not only does it leave off at a cliff hanger, leading me to believe there is a sequel, when I typed the name in on, there were sequels already listed, more than one. The fact that there are already this many planned sequels, makes me feel like I should give up my writing aspirations. I have story ideas in my head, but not enough to even finish or flesh out the story for one book, let alone a series. I guess I figure there are so many good authors out there, why should I bother throwing my crap out to be judged and rejected? So, currently debating whether to go ahead and do NaNoWriMo and write my stories just for me, like Stephenie Meyer said she does, instead of thinking what will be an actual published book. Or, to not waste my time. Thinking I'll have so much going on this November with my new online teaching job, that it might be a good idea not to worry about it this year.

Anyway, the book was good, and I'm eagerly awaiting the sequel, which who knows how long till that comes out, because this is an advance readers copy of a book that doesn't come out till October.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gateway 7: Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

I think kids will enjoy this. And I do think it was an interesting look at the war from a young soldier's point of view. There are some obvious liberal, anti-war statements in the book. Which to me kind of make it so the book is not objective, giving kids a chance to make their own opinions. As I have not read any other books by this author, I wonder if her other books lean the same way. While I have wanted to read her other books, Sold, and Cut for sure, now I'm a bit turned off from just the little digs that were in this one. I will definitely check with friends I have who were over in the war to see if what was said is true.

Our main character is Matt. When we meet him he has just woken up in a military hospital in the Green Zone. The place where Saddam Hussein's palace was that has been taken over by the US military. Matt can't remember exactly what happened to lead up the time when he was injured by the explosion of an RPG. So we go with him as he heals, as he must tell the higher ups what happened, or as they tell him what happened. We get to be with him as he goes back to be with his unit. And what happens soon after he gets back is traumatic as well. I think a look into what life might be like inside this situation would be a good thing for teens to read.

The Icing on the Cake by Alison Kent

Yet another book I got through Shelf Awareness for free. This is supposedly a romance based on a real story through As someone who has tried out, and knows it for what it is, something that still only works for the attractive people, just as in real life. I had to choke through those parts to get through. This is really just a very basic, simple, romance novel. The main characters are Michelle Snow and Todd Bracken. The other part I had an issue with was that after the first date they already were sad and depressed when the other was going out of town on a trip planned way before they even thought of each other. Insert gagging hand motion here.

Anyway, the main thing I did enjoy, was that Michelle's dream was to open a boutique cupcakery. I do love cupcakes. And at the beginning of each chapter it named one of the ideas, and told what it was made of. Here are some of the best sounding ones that make me want to rush out and buy a cupcake.

Ba-nilla: banana bottom with vanilla buttercream top

The "G" Man: gingerbread bottom with a lemon cream cheese buttercream top

Jackie-Oh!: chocolate bottom with almond buttercream top

Happy!: vanilla bottom with chocolate fudge top

Rediculous: red velvet bottom with vanilla cream cheese buttercream top

Whoopie Pie: chocolate bottom with whoopie cream filling & chocolate ganache top

Cookie MOMster: chocolate bottom with almond Oreo buttercream top

Campfire: graham cracker bottom with milk chocolate ganache & marshmallow top

Autumn Luv: spice bottom with almond buttercream top

Apple of My Pie: apple spice bottom with vanilla caramel buttercream top

Lemon Frost: lemon bottom with lemon buttercream top

Pumpkin Pie: pumpkin spice bottom with vanilla cream cheese buttercream top

Hungry yet? I'm wondering if this is a real bakery since this is supposed to be a reality based romance. It takes place in the DC area, which after visiting a couple years ago, I do think it is a neat area.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The 4400: Wet Work by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore

This book is the one I kept in my car for those times when I was somewhere that I needed to read something and didn't remember to bring a book. So I started it quite a while ago.

The 4400 was a show I liked on tv that was cancelled after only a few years. It started out with a great premise, but as many of those types of shows tend to do, it got bogged down into what I call the "mythology" of the show.

This was a good representation of what an episode of the show could have been about. An internation assassin known as "the Wraith" was one of the people taken, she disappeared in 1992. One of our main characters, Tom Baldwin, was actually part of finding her on one of his first cases. When she comes back with the rest of the 4400, she immediately disappears. She had actually planned on that last kill to end her career anyway and retreat into oblivion with her girlfriend. When she comes back, it seems someone from the future, which is where the 4400 have been sent back from, has chosen her to be an assassin for them, to kill other 4400 members who might be messing up the plans. She of course has her own kill list, the people who assigned her all the jobs in the past, who she knew would want her back so that she couldn't incriminate them in these illegal political assassins assigned by the CIA.

As I read the end of the book about the authors, it was very interesting to note that they are both Kansas City residents, or were at the time of the book. I found that cool!

Gateway 6: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

I'd seen this book at the store. No idea what it was about, but the cover is very interesting. Even with such an interesting cover, and really a title that doesn't give much clear idea to what it is about, I can't believe I never picked it up to read what it would be about. Because I really, really, REALLY enjoyed this book. In a way, it reminds me of how much I enjoyed Twilight. I had to know what was going to happen so bad, that I almost skimmed through parts of it, not stopping to read all the details because what happened was more important than savoring. I have a feeling I'll eventually purchase this title, and it will be one I read again and again. Although there is a sequel I'll need to read soon as well.

Shiver is the story of Grace and Sam. Grace was attacked and bitten by a pack of wolves when she was a small child. She can remember one of them in particular, it had these stunning, unforgettable yellow eyes. It was almost as if he saved her, because once she saw him, the other wolves soon disappeared leaving her alone.

Sam is a werewolf, with yellow eyes. He has always felt a connection to Grace. Even when in his wolf state, when he can't quite remember who she is, he feels the pull to go to her house and watch her. And in the summers, when he is human, he hopes to see her.

You see, these wolves become wolves when it gets cold. And as the years pass, the time that they get to be human gets shorter, and shorter, until eventually they never change back and stay wolves forever.

When Sam and Grace finally meet as humans, it is love, as they'd always felt. But Sam is afraid this is his last year, in fact he didn't become human until late fall when he actually felt he had to save Grace.

A boy Grace goes to school with is killed by wolves, then his body disappears. This boy's sister, Isabel, has seen him, and knows he is not dead, and he tells Isabel that Grace knows a cure. Why else could she have been bitten, but not have changed?

The end is very dramatic, and sad, and makes me so happy that there is a sequel, so I can see what happens next. I will probably make this a staff rec as well at the bookstore.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Gateway 5 - Lost by Jacqueline Davies

I was so sure I'd love this. I have really enjoyed all the historical fiction I've been reading from going through this award nominee selection process the past 2 years. And while this was mostly interesting, I'm not sure it will really pull in the high school age. I think it might actually be more a book my middle school kids would enjoy. Now, the main character is Essie, and I think she's like 16? Not completely sure. Anyway, she is a Jewish girl who works in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. We begin the book with a flashback to her younger sister being born, and their mother not wanting to have anything to do with her, due to being so upset over the loss of their father. This is set shortly before the big fire that occurred in this building. There is something weird going on with the younger sister. You can kind of figure it out pretty quick, I think. There is a new girl who is very mysterious, and Essie follows her to her apartment, and then soon they become friends. Turns out her friend has a past, and Essie slowly pieces it together. There is a romance going on between Essie and a boy who lives nearby, Jimmy.

Anyway, we get a lot of the story told with what might be considered stereotypical "Jewish" sounding speaking. So we only get a little of the culture that way. Essie has a younger brother who is kind of a delinquent as well, and so the big turning point of the story comes when he gets arrested, and Essie must figure out how to get him out of jail. Jimmy, who is a law student, goes to the police station to help, and along with the errand Essie runs to her new friend Harriet to ask for the money she needs.

Shortly after this, she goes back to work at the factory one more time, the day of the big fire. Knowing this was going to happen, I was kind of looking for it throughout the whole book and it kind of made me maybe speed through the book to get to that. Not because I'm morbid, but because that is a big historical moment, and I wanted to see what the author did to bring it in, and how the main character would fare and what it would mean afterwards. The cover of the book also does nothing for it in my opinion. I understand what it means, because Essie makes hats, the type that were fashionable back then, but still kind of a boring cover.

Good book, but not sure it is appropriate for Gateway level readers. So I won't be rating it one of the highest I read for the year.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Pride of the Peacock by Victoria Holt

This isn't a new book. In fact, this is a book I've owned for a long time, and read over, and over, and over. I got it one time when my Aunt Nancy was watching me for the day, and we went over to her in-laws for some reason or another. Anyone who knew me as a kid, knows that I was always looking for something to read. I picked up this book off a table or bookshelf or something while my aunt was doing whatever it was we were there for. And I was sucked in immediately. When we went to leave, I think it was my aunt's grandmother in law told me I was welcome to take the book with me and keep it. So I did.

Not sure if this is when my fascination with peacocks began, but peacocks are a big part of the story. And opals. Opal is my birthstone, so of course I've liked it for a long time. But this book introduced me to black opals, and made me search to find them. The main character is Jessica Clavering, or Opal Jessica Clavering which is her full name, although she is never called by Opal. She lives with her family in England in the Dower House of her family's estate that her father lost long ago when gambling. No one will really talk much about the time before. One day Jessica notices what looks like an unmarked grave and finds that it has her name on it. But still, no one will tell her anything about this. Soon the new owner of the former family estate, Ben Henniker is back. And while Jessica is out at her place she likes to sit, his wheelchair comes racing down hill out of control. When Jessica goes to save him, they soon become friends. And she begins sneaking over to visit him. This is where she learns about opals. Ben made his fortune hunting opals in Australia. This may be where I also began my fascination with Australia as well.

I won't go on to spoil much more, just know that Jessica ends up going to Australia and getting to work with opals, and falling in love, all with a mysterious, magnificent opal that is thought to be cursed, called the Green Flash at Sunset, in the background of all the drama. I don't know if you can even find this book anymore. I've looked in the catalog at my bookstore, thinking that one day I'll need a new copy of this when I wear this one out, but haven't been able to find it. And I do love the cover of it that I have, so I wouldn't want one of the others I saw that is really dorky looking in my opinion. While this is probably considered a romance novel, it isn't a trashy one. There is no sex in it. It is quite a bit of a mystery at the end as well. But it is romance, and again, one reason I love it is because of how I also have the insecurities dealing with how no one could possibly like/love me just like Jessica does when we get into the last half of the book where she is with Joss in Australia.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Gateway 4: Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas

I had seen this book at the store and thought it looked interesting. And it was good. I can see that teens would enjoy it, even if I was left somewhat just okay with it. This is the story of Anke and her family. Her father is abusive to her older brother and sister, but doesn't really do much to her, in fact, as the title says, it's like he doesn't even see her. And while she knows what he does to her siblings, sees the bruises, hears him in her sister's room at night, she sometimes feels this means he loves them and not her. She decides to try out and makes the school volleyball team, she's so tall, she's a shoe-in. Her father tells her competition is not good, but doesn't ever actually forbid her, and as always, doesn't turn on her and hurt her in any way for it. No one in the family says anything to try to end this. Until the day that her father does turn on her.

The book is written in poems, reminiscent of the Ellen Hopkins stories, Crank, Glass, etc. So I can see it being a very popular book with kids.

Gateway Nominee 3: Fat Cat by Robin Brande

Oh my gosh, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVED this book! Our main character is Fat Cat, or Catherine Locke. Cat is very smart, she is in THE science class, the one that can get you to the National Science competition, as well as scholarships to college. The way this class starts out, is that you pick, without looking, a picture that the teacher, Mr. Fizer, has cut out of a National Geographic at some point in the past. And based on that picture, you must come up with an individual research project to do for the year, that you will then enter in the school science fair at the end of the year. Cat has worked with insects at a lab all summer, and is really hoping to get some kind of picture that can somehow tie in with this so she can build on her summer work. But no, she gets a picture of Homo erectus, early hominins from 1.8 million years ago. She sees the woman in the picture, lean, muscular, tan, and wants to be her. Cat is overweight, and has been for quite awhile. So this leads to her idea of living like these hominins and seeing what it does for her life and health. Such an awesome project this turns out to be! Of course she has to make some exceptions, she can't use technology, they didn't have it, but she will have to use the computer for homework sometimes, and can only ride or drive a car at night, or for safety issues such as distance. So, she walks to school and work. Her diet gets as close as it can, these prehistoric humans ate rotten meat, yuck. She soon learns that not only in this case, but she must make some other exception in order to not get sick. n

Now, Cat has an archenemy, Matt. They used to be best friends, until something happened at a science fair when they were 13. We don't know for sure what happened till later in the book, but it is easy to guess. As Cat does her project, she loses weight, and starts looking and feeling great. And the boys do notice. Even Matt.

As I've said in many other blogs, I really do get into books where I feel a personal bond or connection with the main character. And I do, so much of how she feels is how I've felt in the past, or sadly, how I feel these days. Such a great, great book. Loved it!!

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

The 3rd and final installment of the Hunger Games Trilogy that I have been waiting on pins and needles for since last spring. Let's just say it was very intense. Didn't like it quite as much as the first two. Probably because what was so unique about the first two was the actual Hunger Games themselves. In this book, the rebels are at war with the Capitol. We've found out that District 13 wasn't destroyed in the original war as the Capitol led everyone to believe, they just moved underground. The Capitol left them there on their own because this was where the nuclear weapons had been made back then, and so they had their own way to fight back. Katniss has been rescued and brought back to District 13, along with as many people from District 12 that they could rescue before or after the Capitol bombed it and destroyed it. Peeta was not rescued, the Capitol is holding him, and we can only assume torturing him and using him to try to lure Katniss out so that she won't be the "Mockingjay" or face of the rebels. Katniss's mother and sister, as well as her friend Gale have all been rescued.

There have been Team Gale vs. Team Peeta factions since the last book. We really get into that whole thing in this book. In fact, there is even one scene very reminiscent of the tent scene between Edward and Jacob in Eclipse. Maybe it only was that way to me because I know the Twilight series inside and out, but still. How much influence does Twilight truly have on the YA authors of the future? I'm not saying it's a bad thing, just remarking on it.

I think I like the way it ended, not sure. I as usual was reading as quick as possible to find out what happened. I will have to go back and read again just to make sure. And I'm sure I will. I already need to go back and read Catching Fire again, because since I've only read it one time all the way through, there is stuff I forgot that I need to revisit, and maybe that will help me make sense, enjoy more, this final book.

So, I recommend it to all who have read the series for it's closure, but if this had been the first book in the series, it wouldn't probably be as popular as it is.