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Thursday, February 25, 2010

High School Picks

Coffeehouse Angel
by Suzanne Selfors.
Scholastic, 2009.
276 pages.

In this second novel, Selfors has a real gem. Instead of writing yet another para-normal vampire or werewolf romance or adventure, Selfors bucks the trend toward dark fiction and writes a sweet novel about a girl, a boy, a failing coffeehouse, an ailing grandmother, a mute waitress with a secret past, a small Norwegian-American town, a mean shopkeeper with an agenda, oh, and an angel. Selfors even pokes fun at the vampire trend, when Katrina thinks,"There are so many stories about girls dating vampires...Angels are supposed to be pure and sinless...It was kind of a relief that I wouldn't have to fend off blood-sucking or enchantment on our first date."

Katrina is a likeable girl who helps her grandmother run a small coffeehouse called Anna's. The problem is that a new coffee shop with lattes, mochas, and imported coffees has opened across the street and wants to put Anna's out of business. Katrina sees a homeless man sleeping the alley behind the shop and gives him free coffee and day-old pastry. Little does she know, he's an angel and now must grant her heart's desire. She has a hard time figuring out what her desire is, and the angel won't take "no" for an answer.

Readers will like Katrina and want the best for her and her grandmother. A surprise ending will delight. Recommended for YA readers. Those who like humor and light romance will likely enjoy this read. Grades 7-high school.

Monday, February 22, 2010

YA Picks

Ninth Grade Slays (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, Book 2)
by Heather Brewer.
Scholastic, 2008.
278 pages.

The second installment in this series does not disappoint. Readers are "sucked" (pun intended) into the story by the second paragraph. A hunter for hire is after Vlad. Not only that, a vampire slayer shows up in town looking for any vampire to slay. Vlad truly has his hands full--trying to fool a hunter and a slayer and yet keep up his grades and try to get Meredith to notice him. This is no small feat--even if you are super-human!

Vlad learns skills from the greatest teacher in vampiredom. He is now able to read people's thoughts and to plant thoughts into their minds. He is even able to communicate telepathically with his Uncle Otis and Henry, who is not only Vlad's best friend, but has become his drudge--a faithful servant of a vampire.

This novel is even stronger than the first and much more fun. Readers who enjoyed the first novel will like the second and chomp at the bit to devour (again, pun intended) books three and four. Great fun, and recommended for YA collections. Grades 7-high school

Thursday, February 18, 2010

YA Pick

Eighth Grade Bites (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, Book One)
by Heather Brewer
Scholastic, 2007.
182 pages.

Meet Vladamir Tod. He's sometimes funny, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes moody, yet always hungry. Just your typical teen-age boy, right? Well, kinda--Vlad is "typical" in all areas except for the fact that his father was a very powerful vampire who turned his back on his own kind to marry a human, Vlad's mother. This fact alone makes Vlad a "marked man" in vampiredom; the true vampires think he's dangerous and want his father to answer for his actions in breaking vampire law.

Aunt Nellie raises Vlad after the untimely deaths of his parents. Nellie is not a blood (pun intended) relation at all--she was best friends with Vlad's mother. Lucky for Vlad, Nellie works in a hospital and is responsible for disposing all the blood near its "due date." Vlad happily feeds on the blood bags Nellie brings home.

Throughout the book, Vlad faces the usual worries of an 8th grade boy: shyness around girls, being bullied by two huge thugs, worries about not being popular, jealousy, oh, and add in the fact that a vampire wants to kill Vlad.

Brewer wins fans with the likeable friendship of Vlad and Henry. Readers will want to read the next books: Ninth Grade Slays and Tenth Grade Bleeds. The fourth installment is due out February 2010 with the paperback edition due out August 2010. Be on the look-out for a movie of Vlad. He is too likeable a character for Hollywood to pass up. Recommended for YA collections. Grade 6-up.

Monday, February 8, 2010

High School Picks

Wherever Nina Lies
by Lynn Weingarten
Scholastic, 2009.
316 pages.

In her debut novel, Weingarten weaves a tale of a missing girl, a murder, a botched romance, a devious psychopath, and a grieving sister who seeks answers for her sister Nina's disappearance. What starts out as a cross-country search for her missing sister ends in an exciting stand-off with police and the killer.

Ellie is heartbroken after her sister Nina vanishes. She has always wanted to be like Nina--to be impetuous, funny, well-liked, and pretty. Ellie seeks clues to why Nina would up and leave without even a note. She knows there's something wrong with Nina's disappearance and wants to find answers. Searching for clues, Ellie meets a new boy and finds herself falling for him. He agrees to accompany her on her search, and they set off in his car. They seek Nina in bus stations, restaurants, oldies record stores, tattoo parlors and rock concerts. The closer they seem to get to Nina, the closer Ellie gets to Sean. Ellie begins to question their relationship, and sees signs of trouble and outright danger. Sean is not what he appears. He sought Ellie out and befriended her on purpose, and is using their love to find Nina for himself. He has bad intentions and a bruised ego, and will stop at nothing to even the score.

The story is quirky in places, romantic in parts, and down-right scary before Ellie realizes the danger she's in. Wherever Nina Lies has a surprise ending. Teen readers will be attracted to the cover art. Language, sex, adult situations. Recommended grades 10-up.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

YA Pick

Witch & Wizard
by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet
Little Brown and Company, 2009.
314 pages.

Teen readers will be drawn to this novel for three reasons: the large "W" ablaze dominating the cover, the words "witch" and "wizard" in the title, and those readers who followed the Maximum Ride series will want to read Patterson's latest YA novel.

Siblings Wisty and Whit Allgood are awakened in the middle of the night by armed thugs who arrest them, transport them to a "trial," and drop them off at a sadistic prison. The old government has been overthown and replaced by a maniac who refers to himself as "The One Who Is The One." The Allgood teens are dangerous to the new order because of their powers. Wisty and Whit discover that they are a witch and a wizard, respectively. As they begin to harness their powers, they befriend a ghost or "curve" who helps them escape the prison through the Shadowlands, a dangerous otherworld where spirits, and sometimes, humans, roam. Later, they join a gang of likeminded kids who hope to overthrow the new regime and fulfill a prophecy that kids will rule and peace will come.

This is a quick read with chapters only 2-4 pages in length. Each chapter ends on a suspenseful note to keep those pages turning. Action and adventure readers will enjoy this novel. Patterson continues to use a formula he has had past success with: working with another author who is comfortable in the children's and YA lit market. Charbonnet, with over 75 titles to her credit, is best known for the Babysitter's Club Baby Sister's books.

The ending of this novel makes possible a slew of sequels. As prolific a writer as Patterson is, he will likely churn out a whole series.

Recommended for YA collections. Grades 6-high school.