Monday, October 30, 2006

Review: Real Time by Pnina Moed Kass

This review was written for the Internet Book Database.

Real Time is Pnina Kass Moed's novel set in contemporary Israel, telling a story in real time, in which the lives of so many people come together, minute by minute. The narration switches back and forth between several different characters, telling one story but also many stories. These characters include Thomas, a German boy who has come to Israel looking for answers about his family, Baruch, a Holocaust survivor who now works on a kibbutz, Vera, another kibbutz worker who is finding her Jewish roots and escaping her tragic past in Odessa, Sameh, a Palestinian working illegally at a diner, Saheh's friend Omar, a reporter, and many others. All of these people are different, looking for different things, but there is a moment when all of their lives come together, and it is a tragedy.

So much sadness, so much despair, is evident. Can there be healing and hope for those who survive this tragedy? Only time will tell.

This novel is a breathtaking story, but it's more than that. For one thing, it's a behind-the-scenes look at what is usually seen only on television. It's more than behind-the-scenes; it's the secrets, thoughts, hopes, and dreams of every person involved. The way this story is told, in (as the title suggests) real time, switching back and forth between several narrators, is a part of what makes it amazing. If just one character told the story, so many aspects of it would not be seen. Pnina Kass Moed is a brilliant writer, and the story she tells in Real Time is equally brilliant.


Rating: 9/10

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

Monday, October 23, 2006

Review: The Shadow Within by Jenine Wilson

Jessie is a fairly normal teenage girl, a senior at Leeland High School along with her best friend, Annie, until the Peterson brothers move to town. Before, her life, if not easy, was at least predictable and not at all extraordinary. Sure, she got bullied at school by Reece, and her parents didn't get along, but Jessie wasn't the only one with those problems. When she literally falls into Wesley's arms one day at school, however, her life is changed drastically.

Wesley and his brother, Brian, aren't exactly what they seem to be, new students from France. Yes, they did live in France before moving to Jessie's town, but before that, they came from another dimension. Not only are the Peterson brothers not French, they're not even human! Well, not entirely. Their mother was a demon, and their fathers human (the boys are twins, but, apparently, with a demon mother, half-brothers can be twins....That seems like unnecessary information in the book, though--wouldn't one human father be simpler?).

Apparently, they were followed from their home dimension by another being, a shade, who possesses others. Human hosts die quickly, but a halfling host would last a long time, and be unable to expel the shade the way full demons do. The shade is following Wesley and Brian, looking for a halfling host, unless they can figure out a way to stop him--with Jessie's help, of course.

The Shadow Within has everything that makes me love a book--there's romance, suspense, action, and, of course, a paranormal element. Overall, I really liked the book--there were just a few details that bothered me. One of these, and possibly the biggest one, was the fact that nobody except Jessie was able to retain long-term memories of the Peterson brothers. What bothered me about this was that it's never explained in the book. Why can't anyone else remember Brian and Wesley? More importantly, why is Jessie able to remember them clearly? Hopefully leaving that loose end means Jenine Wilson will be writing a sequel, but, if not, just leaving that hanging is a bit disappointing.

I know this can be a sore subject, but most of what bothered me about this book were things that, with professional editing, could have been easily fixed (the book is self-published). They are all little things, but little things can add up and be distracting from the book itself. This isn't just Jenine Wilson's book; I've noticed it in all of the self-published books I've read. Of course, note that this isn't important enough to keep me from reading them!

Overall, The Shadow Within is a good, fast-paced story that did the job of holding my attention (and I have a rather short attention span). I'm looking forward to Jenine Wilson's next book!

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Class of 2k7

From the website:

The Class of 2k7 is a group of first-time children's and YA authors with debut books coming out in 2007. We're helping to promote each other's books with this joint Class of 2k7 website as well as a collective blog, newsletter, forum, chatroom, and brochure. Our 36 authors hail from 20 states and D.C. representing a range of genres and publishers.

We're just getting started, but there's already been a great deal of enthusiasm about the idea. And you might get to meet some of us during one of our 2007 regional tours, where cooperative book signings and workshops will bring more attention than any one of us could hope for alone. I look forward to hearing your ideas on how we can make the Class of 2k7 even better and leave a legacy for those who come after us in the Classes of 2k8, 2k9, and beyond. Thanks!

Greg R. Fishbone,
Class President

Very cool, don't you think? It's awesome that these authors are all supporting each other, and they have some great books coming out! Check out the YA section of the site. I can't wait to read these books!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Review: Plan B by Jenny O'Connell

*I'm sorry I haven't been posting many reviews lately, everyone! Life gets in the way...*

Vanessa has it all planned out. She's starting her senior year of high school, and after that "short, relatively painless year," she's going to go to Yale, where her boyfriend, Patrick, is already a freshman. It'll be great, just like before, only without parents around.

Then comes one phone call. Who would have thought one phone call, a fairly short one, could change Vanessa's life so drastically?

Apparently, Vanessa has an older half brother. Her parents were separated for awhile before she was born, and she has a brother that she just found out about. And he's coming to stay. Not just for a visit; he's going to be spending his senior year at Vanessa's school.

He's not completely unknown to her. In fact, the whole world knows Vanessa's brother. She sees his face every day. Her best friend has posters of Vanessa's brother on her wall. Reed Vaughn, Hollywood's favorite bad boy, is Vanessa's half brother.

That's a pretty big bombshell, and it changes things in ways Vanessa could never have imagined. When Reed comes to town, Vanessa's life, every aspect of it, is turned upside down. Things will never be the same for Vanessa again...But is change so bad?

Plan B, Jenny O'Connell's first young adult novel, is sure to be a hit. Published by MTV Books, it's full of believable characters, interesting plot twists, and great writing. This book had my attention all the way through! I've been very impressed with the novels MTV has published, and this one is no exception. The people at MTV have surprisingly good taste in books!

Vanessa is a great character to whom readers will certainly be able to relate. Her unwillingness for things to be different is very understandable, and so is her realization that change isn't always bad. This book is much less predictable than one might think, and the ending especially is surprise -- but not a bad surprise. Nothing about this book is bad! Pick it up and you won't be disappointed.

Rating: 10/10

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I Was A Teenage Popsicle (and other books I want to read)

Bev Katz Rosenbaum, author of the new I Was a Teenage Popsicle, is having a contest! To enter, all you have to do is post something about her book and email her. You could win a neat prize pack! Details on Bev's blog, here. So, anyway, here's a summary of the book from Amazon.com:

Teenage girls always want to be cool. But frozen is another story.

Floe Ryan was frozen-or 'vitrified'-at sixteen. She and her parents had a rare disease, so it was their only choice until a cure was found. Now she's been thawed and it's ten years in the future-but she's still a teenager. And her parents are still chilling out...

So now her little sister is her older sister, and she's making Floe suffer for every snotty thing she ever did. It's hard getting used to...not to mention a new school, new technology, and a zillion other new things that happened while she was napping in the freezer. Luckily, she has Taz, the hottie skater boy who was a popsicle too, so they get to reintegrate together. But now they're trying to close the Venice Beach Cryonics Center-with Floe's parents still in it! It's up to her to save the clinic and her parents-so she can finally have a somewhat normal life.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to read it! It's been on my to-buy list for months, and now it's finally out! I'm definitely planning on ordering a copy.

Speaking of my to-buy list...You can see a long (but by no means complete) list by clicking the link to my wishlist on the right, but a few new & upcoming books I'm super-excited about include Cupcake by Rachel Cohn, Devilish by Maureen Johnson, Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr, and Terrier by Tamora Pierce. My list got a bit shorter after I visited Barnes and Noble the other day--I got Wolfcry by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, Sister Chicas by several authors, Bling Addiction by Kylie Adams, Cubanita by Gaby Triana, and The Lost Colony (Artemis Fowl number five) by Eoin Colfer. I'm kind of broke now. I also recently got a copy of The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, by Barry Lyga. Exciting!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Review: Major Crush by Jennifer Echols

In Major Crush, former beauty paegant queen and majorette Virginia Sauter has pierced her nose, started going barefoot, and become her school's first female drum major. Unfortunately, she has to share the position with Drew Morrow, whose family has held the position for years. He's understandably resentful of her...And, well, he's kind of a jerk. So why can't Virginia stop thinking about him?

Still, his hotness does not make up for his overly competitive behavior or the fact that he's dating one of the Evil Twins (even he's not sure which one--they're identically evil). Virginia can't stand sharing the position of drum major with Drew. But when their new teacher, Mr. Rush, threatens to give the job to Clayton Porridge (Why, you ask is this a bad idea? He's, well, he's Clayton Porridge), they're forced to cooperate. At first getting along is just an act to please Mr. Rush, but then they really start to connect on and off the field...

Jennifer Echols' novel is a funny, entertaining read with surprising depth. It made me laugh at all the right moments (had me laughing out loud quite a bit, actually) but had enough depth that it wasn't completely silly and ridiculous. While the more serious parts sometimes seemed a bit out of place, that was probably just because of my expectations for the book, labeled as a Romantic Comedy. The story was great; marching band "geeks" and non-"geeks" alike will be able to relate, and find themselves sucked into Virginia's and Drew's hilarious romance.

Rating: 8.5/10

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Contests

So it's now October, the start of a new month...That means some new contests! Here's a list of what I've found so far:

Veronika Asks and Kelly McClymer are giving away signed copies of Kelly's new book The Salem Witch Tryouts! It looks like an awesome book. All you have to do is mail Veronika a page of your diary, imagining that you're a witch. You can find the details here.

YA Books Central is running a new contest every day from now until October 13th giving away copies of all of Lemony Snickets' A Series Of Unfortunate Events books, ending with 13 copies of the newest one on the last day of the contest. Details here.

Also on YABC, you can win a copy of E. Lockhart's latest, The Boy Book. I reviewed The Boyfriend List, and this new book is its sequel. I can't wait to read it! Details on contest here.

Sign up for the b-list on Bookburger, and you could win copies of Janet Fitch's books. No, this isn't YA, but the website posts about YA books a lot, so you might like to check it out anyway.

Teenreads.com is giving away signed copies of Sold, by Patricia McCormick! Details here.

I'll post more contests if I find them! Also, an update. I know I didn't get many reviews posted in September; life sometimes gets in the way of this sort of thing. There are so many good books in the world, but so little time to read them all! I'll try to post more reviews in October.