Sunday, September 24, 2006

Review: Dear Zoe by Philip Beard

Dear Zoe is a letter, from Tess DeNunzio to her younger sister, who died in a hit-and-run accident on a day when the world's attention was focused elsewhere, with no grief to spare for Zoe's death, except in Tess's family. On September Eleventh, 2001, Zoe died, leaving Tess and her family devastated. It's certainly something we don't think about, all the personal tragedies that played out on that day. When you hear the words 'September Eleventh,' you see the towers falling or the Pentagon smoking, not the individual deaths of all of those people, related or not to terrorism, on that day.

That's not what that day means to Tess, though. To fifteen-year-old Tess and her family, it means the loss of her little sister, Zoe. It means their lives are changed forever, in ways the rest of the world (to whom that day may seem life-changing as well) can never imagine. Still, Tess has to find a way to handle it all, to go on with her life, to keep on living even if Zoe can't.

Philip Beard's Dear Zoe is a powerful and emotional story about love, grief, growing up, and moving on even when forgetting is impossible. It's a story about one personal tragedy on a day when everyone else mourns the deaths of thousands of others. In Dear Zoe, Tess is just one of a cast of very real characters; her voice is powerful, and will have the reader's attention from the beginning to the end, keeping the reader breathless and racing through the book, but still not going too quickly--wouldn't want to miss something!

Dear Zoe is a powerfully moving, beautifully written story that will haunt readers even after closing the book at the end of the last page. This painfully real, breathtaking novel is sure to be a favorite with all who read it.

Rating: 10/10 (And I'd give it more if I could...Wait, who says I can't? 20/10!)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Review: How to Ruin a Summer Vacation by Simone Elkeles

Amy Nelson thinks her summer vacation is, as you may have guessed from the book's title, ruined. Instead of spending it at home with her mother and friends, she's being shipped off to Israel to meet her father's (AKA Sperm Donor's) family--who, by the way, don't know she exists. Amy's father has never been in her life before; what gives him the right to drag her unwillingly to a foreign country that is a war zone where people are drafted into the army? To top it all off, she's now got to share one bathroom with six other people.

In How To Ruin A Summer Vacation, Amy's stay in Israel is not turning out to be the fabulous shopping experience her friend Jessica described it as. Instead, she's herding goats, being followed around by a dirty puppy with a speech impediment, and dealing with her annoying cousin, Osnat (AKA O'snot, or Snotty). Osnat obviously doesn't want her there, and neither do the other local teenagers, speaking in Hebrew when they know she can't understand, or calling her a spoiled American. Her father, though, keeps pushing for her to fit in.

The only thing that seems right in Israel is finally meeting her Safta, or grandmother. She's the reason that Amy is in Israel at all; Safta is sick, and Sperm Donor wants Amy to meet her grandmother while she has the chance. The two of them click immediately.

Of course, no summer vacation would be complete without a cute guy! Avi, while he may look great, however, is kind of a jerk. Amy could never like him, right?

How to Ruin a Summer Vacation is certainly a fun read and a page-turner (I actually read it all in one sitting), but it's also a very interesting look at life in another side of the world, and how it is both different and the same as life in America--and different from what we see on television. The reader, along with Amy, discovers what it really is to be Israeli, and how different it is from what the media always shows us.

Simone Elkeles' characters are very believable, and Amy's character in particular develops the way a real person would when put into the situations she is. All of the characters, however, seem very real. Their relationships don't always feel as completely developed as they could be, but I'm hoping that comes in the sequel, due out next year (which I can't wait to read!). Amy's attitude makes her a fun character to read about, and readers will probably sympathize with her--even when they don't really like her!

This fast-paced story, while a bit predictable, is a great read, and I'm glad there's going to be a sequel. Simone Elkeles writes in a way that will draw you in immediately, and have you laughing in all the right parts. Don't miss How to Ruin a Summer Vacation!

Rating: 8.5/10

Veronika
interviewed Simone--check it out here!

Review: Jennifer Scales and the Ancient Furnace by MaryJanice Davidson and Anthony Alongi

Jennifer Scales is just like any other fourteen-year-old girl. She's going through some...changes. But it's all normal, right?

Not exactly. In Jennifer Scales and the Ancient Furnace (don't let the title keep you away; it's not what it sounds like), Jennifer's parents tell her some...surprising news. She's going to be changing a lot more than most people do at her age. In fact, she's going to be getting scales, horns, and claws--at least some of the time. Jennifer is a weredragon, from her dad's side of the family (her mom never has a tail the way Jennifer and her father do), and her parents waited to tell her until the day of her first morph. Whenever there's a crescent moon, Jennifer, her father, her grandfather, and so many other seemingly normal people turn into dragons.

That gives Jennifer a lot to deal with. She's got her friends (who she can't tell), school, and, well, being a fourteen-year-old girl. She's got to put her life on hold, though, when she goes to her grandfather's farm to become a dragon, and learn the skills she needs for that (at first, even standing up is hard!). Jennifer (and all weredragons) also has some ancient enemies, though: beaststalkers (humans with the power to hunt weredragons) and werearachnids (people who turn into giant spiders every crescent moon). As if starting high school wouldn't be hard enough!

Jennifer Scales And The Ancient Furnace is a fast-paced story that I read all in one sitting! The writing isn't particularly remarkable, but it's simple enough to keep the reader focused on the story. The characters all seem pretty realistic, if a bit removed from the narrative. The idea is pretty original--a great spin-off of the less original, and more often written about, idea of werewolves. MaryJanice Davidson and Anthony Alongi's writing allows the reader to easily suspend disbelief, and every bit of the story seems as if it could be happening right now, despite what common sense tells us.

This is a fantastic and unique YA fantasy novel that every fantasy fan (and perhaps those new to fantasy) should read! If you do, you'll certainly want to pick up the next book in the series, Jennifer Scales and the Messenger of Light.

Rating: 8/10

**This review is also posted on TeensReadToo.com**

Read my review of the second book about Jennifer Scales, Jennifer Scales And The Messenger Of Light (these titles could use some work...The first one sounds ridiculous and the second sounds like a religious book...Don't let that keep you away, though!) for Curled Up With A Good Kid's Book.

New Way To Keep In Touch

So you know there are a ton of ways to keep up with this blog, right? (Check out my links in the sidebar). Well, another one has just been added: Vox. You can keep up with my reviews at http://teenbookreview.vox.com. Check it out! Plus, it has a cool layout, a tokyo cityscape. Another reason to look it up!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Internet Book Database

Check out the Internet Book Database! You can catalog your books, organize your books (as wanted, owned, favorites, etc.), post book ratings & reviews, and more! I am going to be an official reviewer (when the site's owner sets up the official reviewer page=) for the site, so if you have a book you'd like reviewed on the Internet Book Database, email me, I'd probably be glad to read & review it.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Cool Stats

On my statcounter account, I just found some cool stuff. I can find out how many people from a specific country, state, or city have visited the site, and what page they came from. Very cool. Anyway, I thought I'd share some of it with you:

This week: Visitors by country:

Num Perc. Country Name
drill down7482.22%United StatesUnited States
drill down55.56%CanadaCanada
drill down44.44%United KingdomUnited Kingdom
drill down33.33%FranceFrance
drill down22.22%SingaporeSingapore
drill down11.11%SpainSpain
drill down11.11%GermanyGermany


Some google searches that referred people to this page:

"choose your destiny" novel
bass ackwards and belly up
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
hope was here joan bauer extended plot
review of Hope was here bauer
book review for Elsewhere by Garbrielle Zevin



Cool, huh?

Mailing List

Check out the box to the right to join our mailing list! I think you have to have a yahoo account to sign up, but it's easy and free. Join, and I'll send periodic updates, with new stuff and links and everything. Email me if you have some ideas for the mailing list!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

ARC Trading

Someone posted on the LJ community yalitlovers looking for a place to swap ARCs, but the only thing that I know of that exists that's sort of like that is young adult ARCs, where one person posts a book and then sends it to the first person who wants to read it, who sents it to the next person, and so on until it's back to its original owner. Would anyone here be interested in a site for just trading ARCs? It might be a good idea, since sites like Paperback Swap don't allow it. If so, what should the rules be? Only ARC-for-ARC? Or should any swap be allowed, if one of the books is an ARC? Should it just be ARCs of YA books, or should any book be allowed? Let me know what you think, and I'll set up a site.

EDIT: It's now set up here. Let's see if anyone joins!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Other stuff

Below you will find the latest reviews. Recently, I've read some fabulous books! Anyway, this is just some other stuff about contests and websites and things.

YA Books Central is running some great contests this month for an autographed copy of Riley Weston's fabulous first novel, Before I Go and ten copies of Matthew Skelton's Endiymon Spring, which I haven't yet read but it looks interesting.

New book site! Alyssa Feller's blog The Shady Glade is looking awesome! She has book reviews, reviews of book-related websites, and more. Alyssa is an official reviewer for YABC; check out her reviews and interviews there as well.

Another cool recently added blog is Chicklet Lit, a blog about teen chick lit--reviews, lists (the most recent is best chicklet lit turned into movies), and more related stuff.

An early reminder to check out Veronika's site next month when she'll be running a contest for Kelly McClymer's book, Salem Witch Tryouts. I haven't read it, but I want to! Of course, Veronika also has great reviews and interviews.

Teens Read Too has a contest running for Jenine Wilson's The Shadow Within (which I'll be reviewing soon), Christine Fletcher's awesome book Tallulah Falls (read my review here), and Susane Colasanti's When It Happens (I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this one!). They'll also have new reviews & other stuff up all the time.

Flux
is hosting an essay contest for teens! Winners will recieve autographed copies of all the Flux books. The site also has some guest blogs from great Flux authors.


If you know of another contest, email me and I'll post it here.

Other news...Well, reviews will be a little infrequent for the next few weeks at least, as I've got some stuff going on in my offline life =) I've got some great books up for review next, though! Keep checking back for reviews of these books (and more!) in my to-read stack: Simone Elkeles' How To Ruin A Summer Vacation, Jenine Wilson's The Shadow Within, Cecil Castelluci's Queen Of Cool and Boyproof, Jennifer Echols' Major Crush, Erin Downing's Dancing Queen, and Nina Wright's Homefree.

I've just joined Paperback Swap, a cool website for swapping books! You swap for credit, and you can save your credits for any book; you don't have to trade directly with someone. I've gotten some good books already! Also, when you first sign up, you get three free credits just for posting nine books (not mailing out, just posting as availible!), so that's three free books right off! I'm hoping if some of you guys, readers of YA books, join, there will be some cool books to swap for=)

That's it for now; check back soon for more reviews (and anything else I think of)!

Review: Naughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

In Malorie Blackman's Naughts And Crosses (Noughts and Crosses in the UK, and part of a trilogy--though only the first book has been published in the US, unfortunately. Has anyone living in the UK read the others?), she creates a very believable alternate world that is almost like our own--but the main difference is a major one. Everything you think you know about race relations and predjudice holds true, but is switched. The ruling class to which Sephy Hadley's family belongs are the black Crosses, named for their supposed closeness to God, and the white Naughts, like Callum and his family, are second-class citizens. In this world, it's unacceptable for a naught and a Cross to be real friends, and unthinkable for them to fall in love. Callum and Sephy are breaking all the rules of the society they live in.

The two have known each other from a very young age, when Callum's mother worked in the Hadley household. Even after she loses her job, though, Sephy and Callum remain secretly close. They meet in secrety, forced to tell lies and make up excuses, but they never stop seeing each other, no matter how difficult it is. Soon, though, they'll see each other every day--but that's not as good as it sounds. A new law has been passed, and a limited number of naughts will now be allowed to attend Cross schools. Callum has been accepted into Sephy's school, and Sephy's excited to see her best friend more often. Callum, however, knows that letting their friendship be public could prove very dangerous for both of them. Things continue to get worse when Sephy and her mother are nearly caught in a terrorist bombing. Sephy's life is saved when Callum pulls her out of the building just in time, but nobody's fooled--that's no coincidence. Suspicion falls on Callum's family.

Callum's father is the prime suspect in planting the bomb, supposedly on the orders of a radical naught terrorist group, the Liberation Militia, or L.M. They're devoted to their goals of rights for naughts, and they'll go to any length to achieve them. This parallel world even has a parallel of Martin Luther King, Jr.; Alex Luther is an activist whose goal is to achieve equality peacefully. Callum's mother is a supporter of his, but Callum's father and brother don't believe that Alex Luther's way of doing things will actually get anything done. The events that unfold after the bombing threaten not only Sephy and Callum's relationship, but their very lives and the lives of those around them.

Naughts And Crosses is a fantastic story, and one that will keep your mind occupied long past the final pages. The world created in Malorie Blackman's novel is one that is much like our own, and inspires a lot of "what if?" questions. What if that was our world? It's not so far off to imagine. How would our lives be different? They almost certainly would be. You wouldn't be where you are now. You wouldn't be who you are now; everything would be remarkbly different, but still so much the same.

Malorie Blackman's writing does plenty to draw you in and keep your attention with the story, not bothering with the excessive and often boring detail used by some authors. It's definitely a page-turner! Sephy and Callum are very well-developed main characters, and the secondary characters are quite believable as well. The story is told in alternating chapters narrated by Sephy and Callum, which really adds a lot to it. Sephy and Callum really are remarkable people, showing the strength that love can have, the bridges it can cross, and the determination to see past what's on the outside. That last quality is one that is, sadly, not as common in our world (or Sephy's and Callum's) as it should be. Sephy and Callum also show how willing children are to love, regardless of the predjudices of their world, before their minds are poisoned by their elders. Sephy and Callum became friends at a young age and, remarkably, they stayed that way (and became more), despite the predjudices of their society. Naughts and Crosses is a remarkable book, one that you won't want to put down once you've started reading.

Rating: 10/10

**This review is also posted on TeensReadToo.com**

Warning: There are spoilers in the comments!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Review: Tallulah Falls by Christine Fletcher

In Christine Fletcher's Tallulah Falls, Tallulah Addy (formerly Debbie Badowski) doesn't know what she did before she knew Maeve. Maeve is everywhere, laughing and moving and talking all the time. Everybody loves her. Then, one day, she takes off for Florida, leaving Tallulah behind in Portland. When Tallulah gets an urgent message from Maeve, though, she leaves her life in Portland and her family behind, and sets out on a cross-country trip. Tallulah's got to bring Maeve two notebooks from her apartment. She asks Derek, a boy she's gone out with only once, to drive her. Tallulah doesn't know what else to do. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't turn out all that great. Derek leaves her with nothing but a duffel bag (which fortunately contains the two notebooks she's bringing to Maeve). Unfortunately, she has no money and no way to get to Florida.

When she's arrested for vagrancy (which seems rather absurd), Tallulah calls Maeve, but Maeve isn't answering the phone. She can't call her family, of course, but she definitely needs help. She is rather surprised, however, when help turns out to come from the people at the local veterinarian's office. She has a job at the clinic, a place to stay with Ruth, the receptionist, and possibly a love interest in Kyle, who works there as well. She had no idea this was what she'd end up with when she brought in an injured dog from the highway. Still, it's only temporary. Tallulah's got to go to Florida and find Maeve as soon as she gets her paycheck. Right?

Tallulah Falls is a marvelous book by a brilliant author that is certainly worth reading. It's an absorbing story, and it's brilliantly written. The characters are excellent, especially Tallulah, whose voice certainly adds a lot to this novel. Christine Fletcher's story is beautiful, brilliant, marvelous, and any other adjective along those lines. It's not just another entertaining chick lit book (not that there's anything wrong with those; I love them), but very different (in a very good way). Tallulah Falls is an excellent, touching story of a girl finding out who she is and what her priorities are, but it's definitely more than that as well. This is something no one will want to miss.

Rating: 10/10

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Review: The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart

Ruby Oliver (aka Roo) has not had the greatest ten days of her life. You wouldn't think much could happen in those ten days, but Ruby's life has gone from great to terrible in less than two weeks. E. Lockhart's The Boyfriend List is named after the list that Ruby has to make for her new shrink of all the boys with whom she has had something happen, even if it's just checking out the same library books in elementary school. On that list, there are fifteen guys. One of those was her first official boyfriend. In the past ten days, she's lost him, as well as the friendship of some of the others, and her best friends. On top of being a social leper, Ruby has started having panic attacks. I mean, come on, all of that would be enough to make anyone crazy!

Ruby's parents are worried about her, though. And Ruby doesn't want to be like her father's friend, Greg, who has panic attacks and never leaves his house. So she's seeing a shrink. She's fifteen, and has her own psycologist. Can Ruby, with the help of Dr. Z, sort out her life?

The Boyfriend List was an enjoyable read, starring Ruby, a likeable character with a very realistic and entertaining voice. Besides the main plot (the past ten days), it is full of entertaining flashbacks and anecdotes about each of the fifteen guys on Ruby's list (plus a few other things). E. Lockhart's story will capture your attention, and have you racing through the book, eager to find out what happens--but also slowing down, not wanting to miss any of the details of this great story. It's a fun read that you definitely don't want to miss. And when you're done with this one, the sequel, The Boy Book, will be released in a few weeks. I absolutely cannot wait to read it, and I know I'm not alone!

Rating: 9/10

Review: The Shalamar Code by Mary Louise Clifford

The Shalamar Code, written by Mary Louise Clifford, is a fast-paced and interesting book that takes place in a world very different--and very much the same--from ours. In Pakistan, fifteen-year-old Mumtaz is just like so many other teenage girls. She wears jeans, plays tennis, and occasionally sneaks out of the house to meet a boy her parents don't approve of.

When her older brother, Sikandar, gets involved with some shady characters, Mumtaz's life changes drastically. Mumtaz convinces Rashid to help her get her brother out of trouble and find out what it's all about, but when Rashid loses his job because of what he did for her and Sikandar runs away from the city to escape the trouble he's in, Mumtaz might be in over her head.

At first, Rashid and Mumtaz think it's all about drugs, which isn't particularly unusual in Pakistan, but then they find out there's a political element as well. This isn't surprising, as Mumtaz's father is head of an illegal opposition party, and they are watched constantly by the government. Remnants of Al Qaeda are making trouble with the tribal groups, and that makes everything particularly complicated. Who is involved? What's going on? Most importantly, can Mumtaz keep herself and her family safe?

This fast-paced story shows another side of life after 9/11 than what the media shows us here, on the opposite side of the world from Mumtaz and her family. While the story is interesting and suspenseful, the language of this story is simple, as are the characters. Still, it's definitely a page-turner. Characterization, as it sometimes does in action-packed stories, seems to take a backseat to moving the story along, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. There were times when, as a reader, I just wanted to know what would happen next, and details about the characters weren't particularly important.

The unusual perspective from which Mary Louise Clifford writes and the fascinating and controversial story she tells in The Shalamar Code make this book one that is worth reading, particularly for those interested in what goes on in the lives of the people who are often shown in the media only as terrorists. This is a book that shouldn't be missed.

Rating: 7.5/10

**This review is also posted on TeensReadToo.com**