Monday, January 31, 2011

High School Pick: Wither

Wither (The Chemical Garden Trilogy)
Wither (Book One, The Chemical Garden Trilogy)
by Lauren Destefano
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2011
368 pages

Available March 22, 2011

Wither is a creepy, yet mesmerizing, debut novel that is sure to have readers chomping at the bit to get their hands on books two and three of the trilogy. This is a heart-thumping, page turner of a novel--unputdownable.

In the distant future, genetic engineering is able to obliterate all diseases and illnesses, but something has gone wrong. Males live to the ripe young age of twenty-five; for females--it's just twenty.

Geneticists and scientists are working around the clock to try to save the children, and some scientists are even secretly experimenting on "subjects"--hoping to find the cure but unethically using ill children--causing their deaths. It is in this shocking world gone wrong, that girls like Rhine are taken.

Rhine is kidnapped by Gatherers--men in dark coats who kidnap young girls to sell to the highest bidder. The lucky girls are sold to wealthy men who have many wives in the hopes of many offspring who may live to adulthood. The unlucky ones are sold into prostitution or killed and dumped.

Rhine is one of the "lucky" girls--taken from her home in New York City to a huge mansion in Florida. There she becomes a "sister" wife to two other girls who were kidnapped like her. Rose--who is nineteen and dying--is the first wife of Linden, son of the master of the mansion. The three new girls will be her replacements.

Nothing in this future world is "real"--the fireplaces are holograms, the scenery, the board games--all are false images. Rhine is eager to escape--she wants to go home, back to New York and her twin brother Rowen, who must be going crazy searching for her. Rhine soon learns to be a skilled actress, acting like she loves Linden--waiting for her chance to escape. When she enlists the aide of Gabriel, a servant, they are both in danger.

Readers who enjoyed The Hunger Games trilogy and The Forest of Hands and Teeth will probably love this novel.

Highly, highly recommended for high school collections. Mature situations. No language.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book Giveaway--Win a Free Book!

The Book of Spells: A Private Prequel

Win a free copy of the exciting new ya read, The Book of Spells by Kate Brian!

Post a comment here. Please include the name of your library and your email. I will notify winners via email on Feb. 23--asking for your home mailing address.

Deadline: Your comment must be posted by Feb. 22 at 12:00 noon Mountain Standard Time. Winners will receive their copies at their home address. Books will ship from Simon & Schuster.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bewitching Pick: The Book of Spells

The Book of Spells: A Private Prequel
The Book of Spells: A Private Prequel
by Kate Brian
Simon & Schuster, 2010
303 pages, with sneak peek Ominous

The Book of Spells is an enjoyable, well-written page turner.

Eliza Williams can't wait to go to boarding school in Boston! She has had enough of her mother's prying eyes--Eliza can't even read what she wants. Her mother thinks that "proper" ladies shouldn't read the great books--leave that to the men. Eliza is a sassy extrovert who has other ideas.

Arriving at the Billings School for Girls in 1915, Eliza finds that her roommate is a likeable girl named Catherine White. All the other girls are nice enough with the exception of Theresa Billings, granddaughter of the school's founder. Theresa is spoiled, snippy, and downright bossy. Too bad that she's engaged to Harrison, the boy Eliza spots from the carriage when she first arrives.

When Eliza unearths a wooden box containing books on witchcraft, she and the others plan to have a little fun. What could be wrong with a little spell or two here and there? The girls form a "club" where twelve must be present in order for any spell to work. They practice spells that make them silent--no sound they make can be heard by others--including the headmistress! This allows them to sneak out and frolic the grounds at night and even visit the boys' school next door without being heard.

What will happen when mean girl Theresa finds out that Eliza has met Harrison at midnight? When a terrible accident threatens their "club" and their lives, the girls must decide whether to practice a darker magic or bury the secrets.

Girls who like mystery and light romance will be drawn to this read.

Ominous, the next in this series, is available February 22, 2011.

Recommended grades 7-up. No language or sex.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Novel That Makes a Difference: Shine

by Lauren Myracle
Amulet, 2011
384 pages

Due May 2011

Passionate, powerful, and poignant, this novel will cause a cacophony in libraries, book stores, blogs, and hopefully, even forward-thinking classrooms. Myracle leaves her girl/chick-lit earlier novels behind her, and steps to the center stage with this complex and grim read.

Shine is a gritty novel that will stick with readers making them uncomfortable and even angry, but it is also a novel that will cause discussion/debate on a number of issues: poverty, ignorance, illegal drug use, alcoholism, hatred, race relations, gay/lesbian/transgender issues, brutality, bullying, and the human capacity to forgive.

Cat Robinson is a sixteen year old girl growing up in the backwoods of rural America where the Internet/I-phones and laptops are non-existent. Cat has to go to the next town by bus to use a computer at the public library. People who live in Black Creek, North Carolina, are for the most part poor and uneducated. Most drop out in high school; in fact, only Cat and two others are going on to their senior year. Many jobs have been lost in the town and people turn to alcohol and meth for relief. Teen boys work peddling meth for the local meth cooker Wally.

It is in these hills that Cat's best friend Patrick is brutally attacked, bludgeoned and left for dead. The sheriff calls it a hate crime since Patrick is known to be gay. Cat knows better; she knows that the sheriff isn't looking for the guilty person. The official report says Patrick was probably hurt by college kids who stopped at the convenience store where he works. Cat goes from a shrinking violet to a determined and strong girl who fights for what's right.

As Cat uncovers clues, readers will be saddened and disgusted by this picture of Americana--a town where dreams are best left not dreamed and the future only looks brighter through the bottom of a bottle or the haze of meth.

This book will be widely read among teens who read authors David Levithan and Alex Sanchez. Shine is a novel that will stand the test of time. It is The Outsiders of the 21st Century.

In the end, the reader is left with a feeling of optimism as the guilty person is found and Patrick turns the corner. Cat and Patrick find it within themselves to forgive and continue to heal.

Highly, highly recommended for high school collections.
Warning: too mature for middle school. Sex, language, violence, gay issues, drugs, mature content.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sci-Fi Pick: Human .4

by Mike A. Lancaster
Egmont, 2011
240 pages

On sale: March 8, 2011

Terrific, mind-blowing, rocking, and a solid page-turner,
this is the best sci-fi thriller to come around in a long time. Lancaster has it right! The book is left for analog or "old-fashioned" people to read now that humans have been updated. A box of old cassette tapes is found and the story of what happened to humanity is told by Kyle Straker.

Everything is going along fine in his rural English village until the talent show. It is then that Kyle and three others are hypnotized by his friend Danny. When they wake from their "trance," everyone has changed, except them. It is as if time stands still. They try to find radio or t.v. stations, but there is no one. The people at the talent show are suspended in time. No one moves.

As Kyle and Lilly try to sort things out, the people "wake up," except they're different. They look the same, but they're not, they've been upgraded. Only a few humans skipped the upgrade: those who were hypnotized, those in comas, those too sick or mentally ill and a few others.

What if no one in the world can see you? Or hear you? The Humans.4 have just become obsolete; this book is published so that humans.4 will know that "We.Remember.You."

Don't miss this read!

Highly, highly recommended for sci-fi and thriller readers grades 7-up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Middle/High School Pick

Heist Society
Heist Society
Ally Carter
Hyperion Books, 2010
287 pages

Heist Society is the most fun a book can be--filled with witty dialog, smart sleight of hand, white collar crime, high dollar art theft, international globe-trotting, secret identities, fake passports, breaking into a fortess to steal an art collection, and quiet romantic moments, Carter delivers a gem of a ya novel.

When you come from a family of thieves, it's easy to follow in their footsteps. Kat Bishop and hottie guy friend Hale have to find stolen paintings for an Italian mobster before he puts a hit on Kat's art thief father. Her father is innocent, surprisingly enough, but it's up to Kat to clear his name. There's only one way to do it--find the art, steal it back and return it to the mobster.

Each section is set in another part of the world: Las Vegas, Italy, Paris, New York. The smart dialog between Kat, Hale, Uncle Eddie and cousin Gabrielle use terms like Fallen Angel, Drawbridge, Dog in a Bar--scams used by thieves to gain entry into their marks. Readers will relish the world in which Kat travels and her exciting adventures.

This is one teen caper that delivers! Not to be missed. Must read and a real page turner! The cover will captivate most readers--smart cover choice!

Highly, highly recommended for grades 7-up

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for the library. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chick Pick: The Darlings Are Forever

The Darlings Are Forever

The Darlings Are Forever
Melissa Kantor
Hyperion, 2011
352 pages

Three best friends since elementary school now face new challenges as they each venture off to a new high school in New York City. Victoria is the under-achiever in her family. Though brilliant in classes, Victoria is shy and unassuming--unlike her popular sister Emily who attends Princeton and is involved in their father's campaign to run for Congress. When popular kids focus on Victoria, she finds out they really don't want to be her friend, they just want to get closer to her father's campaign.

Then there's Jane who attends the School of Performing Art and dreams of the stage. Finally, there is Natalya, the daughter of immigrants from Moscow, Russia. Natalya's parents are working class and she is almost ashamed to be in a school where many of the students are quite wealthy.

Girls who love a friendship novel will like this read. There is drama when the girls attend a teen party and are caught by shutterbugs who post their pictures on Facebook. The girls argue and nearly lose their friendship, but then remember that "the Darlings are forever!"

Other reviews reommend grade 8 and up; however, I recommend grade 9-up. Condoms are mentioned and quite a lengthy description is given on how to put one on; also, an under-age drinking party is described.
No blatant sex or language.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Chick Pick: Will Work for Prom Dress

Will Work for Prom Dress

Will Work for Prom Dress
by Aimee Ferris
Egmont, 2011
272 pages

Available February 8, 2011

Just in time for Valentine's Day, this sweetheart of a book will have girls clamoring for a copy. When Quigley and her best friend Anne are fired from a frozen pizza packing plant, they are worried about making enough money to buy their prom dresses. Anne, the over-enthusiastic and adventuresome one, finds them work in a dinner theater--all Quigley has to do is act like a dead body! Their next gig is modeling for a design class. That's where Quigley meets Zander, the uber-hot clothing designer.

The girls have some wacky adventures at their part-time jobs and even wackier ones with part-time boyfriends.

That's only one part of the book--there is a deeper story going on here. Quigley is a typical under-achiever. Not sure of herself or her goals, other than she would like to have a career in art somehow, she manages to muddle through the months leading up to the prom. Quigley is really into art and photography--so much so that she enters a huge show. When her art is chosen as the best, she has her pick of art programs. The underdog comes from behind and wins! Not only that, she gets the guy!

This novel has great character and great heart. For readers who are tired of dark and brooding vampires or ravenous beasts, Will Work for Prom Dress is ray of sunshine. Girls who enjoyed The Cupcake Queen, The Teashop Girls, Coffeehouse Angel, or books by Dessen will probably love this one.

Recommended grade 9-up. Mature grade 8 girls will probably enjoy this one, too.

Some sexual innuendo--no sex.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Chick Pick: The Cupcake Queen

The Cupcake Queen
The Cupcake Queen
by Heather Hepler
Dutton Children's Books (Penguin Young Readers Group, 2009
242 pages

The best cute ya novel for girls this year!

Quirky, clumsy Penny Lane (her parents loved the Beatles) finds herself eons away from her New York City upbringing when her mother decides to "find herself" and moves them to Nowheresville, USA known as Hog's Hollow. It's bad enough to live in a small, picturesque town known for its pork products, it's worse to have to work in a cupcake shop decorating minature cakes for the town's wealthy and snobbish gentry. When Penny crosses paths with local mean girl Charity (who is soooo totally misnamed!) sparks fly and other kids laugh.

Penny finds friends with blue haired outcast Tally and a cute boy named Marcus and his even cuter dog Sam-- who runs into her--literally--on the beach. Penny is hopelessly lost in her new surroundings and she hates it! Only when her father and mother decide to really call it quits and DIVORCE, does Penny realize that the place she's at might not be the place she hates.

The Cupcake Queen is charming, quirky, light, and cute and girls who liked The Teashop Girls and Coffeehouse Angel are sure to love this novel.

Recommended grade 7-up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for the middle school library. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

Fantasy Pick: Reckless


by Cornelia Funke
Little Brown, 2010
394 pages

Funke has the unique talent of taking fairy tale creatures not really known by the American reading public and making them a part of our literary past. From men who become precious stones and warriors known as goyl to a fox who turns into a human girl, Reckless contains a myriad of fantasy creatures. Jacob Reckless sees a strange mirror in his father's study. He longs for his father who vanished mysteriously some years ago. Jacob walks through the mirror into another world. Only when his younger brother follows him and is cursed by a dark fairy, is Jacob ready to give up his adventures in the fairy tale world.

Jacob, Clara, and Will travel across dangerous territory inhabited by witches, dwarfs, evil goyl, and fairies. Every forrest is a danger, every tree a weapon. Readers will lose themselves in this fantasy world. Layer upon layer is well-developed and vividly told.

Recommended for fantasy collections grade 7-up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for the middle school library. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

Chick Pick: The False Princess

The False Princess
The False Princess
by Eilis O'Neal
Egmont, 2011
336 pages

Nalia is the princess of Thorvaldor--heir to the throne and the only daughter of the King and Queen. After her sixteenth birthday, Nalia's world is torn apart. The only parents she's ever known tell her that she is a false pretender to the throne--a peasant's baby they raised as their own, secreting the rightful princess, their daughter, away in the countryside for her safety. Nalia is stripped of her title, her home, her parents, even her name--she is now Sinda, a penniless orphan who has a distant aunt who agrees to take her in. Sinda is not meant for the peasant life. She has been tutored in languages and court manners, not cleaning and cooking over an open fire. She is homesick for the palace and her friend Keirnan.

Away from the palace and the spell that wizards put over her, Sinda realizes that she has some powers of her own. She travels back to Thorvaldor to seek out training to help her use her new abilities. It is there that a wise--if befuddled--wizard named Philantha takes her in and trains her to use her magic. Sinda and Keirnan discover that the princess Nalia may also be a fake. Who is the true princess? Where is she? And why would someone try to fool the King and Queen? It is up to Sinda and Keirnan to save the kingdom.

The False Princess has mystery, romance, intrigue, suspense, evil, treachery, magic--everything a reader could want. Readers who enjoy a mystery mixed with romance will love The False Princess.

Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up.

Book will be released January 25, 2011.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the book from the publisher. I did not receive any monetary compensation for my review.