Saturday, December 30, 2006

Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess

This is just a reminder that SUCH A PRETTY GIRL, Laura Wiess's fantastic book from MTV books, will be released January 2nd. Go out and buy it! Or, order from Amazon here.

You can read my review here.

Review: Trash by Sharon Darrow

TRASH is a verse novel that continues telling the story Boy and Sissy Lexie, first introduced in Sharon Darrow’s novel THE PAINTERS OF LEXIEVILLE. It’s certainly not necessary to have read that first book (I haven’t), though--but I’m planning on it now that I’ve read this one. The best part of this book, I think, is the characters, and I’d love to read more about them.

Sure, the story is interesting, too: Boy and Sissy are teenagers now. They’ve been shipped around to various foster homes in a way that makes them feel like trash, especially since their mother discarded them like it. Now they’re living with the town trash collectors, a placement that seems especially fit using that comparison. It’ll never be home.

Boy says that home is where their big sister Raynell is, and Sissy thinks it’s the truth. So what do they do? They run away and go to find her. They think she’s in Little Rock, but it turns out that she moved to St. Louis and their foster parents didn’t deliver the message. They don’t know how to find her, so they start saving their money, and when they have enough, they go to St. Louis and search her out.

In St. Louis, they have a family with Raynell, her husband, Jobe, and their baby, Kylie. They also have new friends: Dolores and Tyrone. The four of them run around the city at night, climbing, jumping, and painting. They take new names with which to sign their graffiti: Boy and Sissy, who have always wanted real names, are now Atenz and Skye.

And then something unthinkable happens. Something terrible: Boy doesn’t look where he’s jumping, and in that split second of not looking, things change forever. Sissy’s life will never, ever be the same.

Both the story and characters in TRASH are interesting. My issue with this book is the form it takes. I do enjoy verse novels quite often, but they have to be done in a particular way to really be able to take the name verse novel. They have to flow and tell the story as well as a good novel does. I’m not sure that TRASH does this; the poetry is a little too artsy and doesn’t flow as smoothly as it should. The style of poetry doesn’t make for a novel so much as some random poems scribbled on sheets of notebook paper. Perhaps this is just personal preference, but I think Sharon Darrow could have told the story better if she’d written it as regular novel, the way the rest of her stories are told. Still, though, TRASH is worth reading.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, December 29, 2006

Review: Notes From The Teenage Underground by Simmone Howell

I read the Australian version of this book (it comes out in the United States in 2007), so there may be a few slight differences (there were definitely differences in grammar that I noticed!). Hopefully that won’t include the cover; I love the Australian cover, and it fits the book perfectly!

NOTES FROM THE TEENAGE UNDERGROUND is a fantastic debut novel! It starts out with three best friends, Gem, Lo, and Mira, trying to come up with ideas for their summer project. The summer before was their Satan Summer; they dabbled in all things occult. The summer project has a theme, goals, and guides. This year, they want to do something spectacular; it could be their last summer project--who knows what the future will bring?

Lo is usually the one with ideas, but this time, Gem has some ideas of her own. Their theme for the year is Underground, whatever that means. Ug for short. Their guide? This is where Gem is inspired. She sees some of his work--four films of kissing couples playing over and over--at the National Gallery, and she decides, with a bit of help from her artsy mother, Bev, that Andy Warhol should be their guide into the world of the Underground (which at first kept making me think of riding the subway a lot…). She does some research into Andy Warhol, his work, his life, and the people around him, and then comes up a goal: to make an Underground film.

During the course of this project, Gem realizes a lot of things about her life and her relationships. She feels like her friendship with Lo and Mira is an isosceles triangle; the two of them are close together, and Gem is all alone at one end. She’s also being pressured to make some decisions about her future, as all seventeen-year-olds are. Her mother and Sharon, school counselor and Gem’s godmother, want her to go to University, but Gem’s a lot more interested in film school. Speaking of her love for movies, she’s starting to think she could love something else at Video City, where she works--her coworker, Dodgy. On top of all of this, Gem’s father, Rolf, has always been out of the picture, just sending the occasional weird haiku from where he lives out in the wilderness--but now it looks as though he could be stepping back into Gem’s life, at least for awhile.

This summer is a turning point in Gem’s life. When it’s all over, Gem will be different. Her life will be different. This much is pretty obvious. But how will things change?

I really, really loved this book. It was a lot of fun to read, and the idea of the summer project was very interesting, something that set this book apart from a ton of others. Almost all YA is about things changing, as that’s what’s always going on for teenagers, but Simmone Howell’s novel had something that makes it stand out in my mind! If it’s got Andy Warhol and obscure movies in it, it’s got to be different.

Gem is a wonderful character. I really felt, while reading this, as if I knew her. She’s very interesting, and what goes on in her mind is fascinating. I couldn’t put this book down! I woke up at one in the morning, for some reason anxious to finish this book. That almost never happens to me! As I’m writing this, it’s a little bit difficult to explain what about this book is so amazing, but there’s something. It really captures the teenage experience. Simmone Howell obviously remembers this time in her life very well! I’m going to have to revise my ‘Best of 2006’ list to add this one! This is a must read!

Rating: 10/10

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

Review: See You Down The Road by Kim Ablon Whitney

Review: See You Down The Road by Kim Ablon Whitney

Bridget and her family are Travelers. They’re a little-known group of people in America who travel around the country, making money in usually illegal ways, and keep to themselves, with their own traditions and way of life. People who aren’t Travelers are called Country, and Travelers usually isolate themselves from these people. They don’t trust them, and only interact with them to scam money off of them. Travelers only go to Country schools for a few years, just long enough to know what they need to.

Bridget is a little different from many Travelers in that way. She works Country jobs, as a cashier, and she’s been going to Country schools years longer than most other Traveler teenagers. Still, though, she keeps to the Traveler was most of the time. She and her friend Ann make their money by ripping off the local Kmart in whatever town they’re in. Her parents have arranged a marriage for her, with Ann’s brother Patrick. Her brother, Jimmy, has grown up helping their father fix driveways and roofs with watered-down sealant to make a better profit by scamming Country people.

Bridget doesn’t always like her life as a Traveler, but she doesn’t see a way out of it. She isn’t sure she wants to marry Patrick, even though he’s a nice guy and she does like him, but she’s never see any way out of it. Then, her uncle, Big Jim, takes Bridget, Jimmy, and Patrick with him all the way to Arizona, where they’ll pull off the biggest scam that Bridget’s ever been involved in. They’ll sell condos that don’t meet the building codes, and then run off with the money. The beauty of it is, the contractor won’t dare tell on them, as he’s the one who hired them to sell condos that don’t meet building codes.

In Arizona, Bridget has some time to think about a lot of things, maybe even figure out what she wants. But then she makes another discovery about her family, one that could change everything for Bridget…The choice is hers, but what will she decide?

Before reading SEE YOU DOWN THE ROAD, I had never heard of Travelers. I don’t think many people have, but they’re real people, and reading about them was very interesting. Their way of life is very different from the way most of us live, and this is an eye-opening book. Many of us don’t realize how differently some people live from us, not just in far away places but right here in the United States.

On top of that, SEE YOU DOWN THE ROAD is full of amazing characters, and is very well written. All of the characters are well drawn, realistic, and three-dimensional; even the very minor characters seem alive. The ending is not what we might expect from this sort of book, but it fits well, and is one that I really liked. It wasn’t predictable, and it was still a happy ending. In that way, it reminded me of the ending of POP! (though the two stories have little in common…although Bridget and Marit reminded me a little of each other at times), except Kim Ablon Whitney pulled it off better than Aury Wallington was able to. Whitney’s ending, I felt, stayed true to the story and characters, and flowed with the rest of the story wonderfully.

Rating: 10/10

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

Review: Pop! by Aury Wallington

Review: Pop! by Aury Wallington

POP! follows one of the trends I’ve noticed in my reading this year(see my Reading In 2006 post): it deals with the consequences of sex for teenage girls. It also, however, deals with making the decision to have sex or not, which is something that is also important. This is an important topic, and when I say that it’s something I’ve noticed, I don’t mean the preachy books about teen pregnancy. I mean realistic books about other consequences, books that aren’t preachy and don’t condemn sex, just show that some thought should go into making that decision.

In POP!, Marit thinks she is the only seventeen-year-old virgin in Connecticut. This is obviously an exaggeration, and her best friend Caroline points out the flaw in this idea: their other best friend, Jamie, is also a virgin. He doesn’t act like it’s as big of a deal as Marit does, though.

What, exactly is Marit’s problem? She’s had boyfriends before. Caroline and Jamie think they have it figured out: as soon as Marit’s in a relationship, as soon as it gets physical, she gets scared and runs. As much as she tries to protest this theory, Marit’s past experiences prove that it may have some merit.

Marit’s older sister has a solution. At first, it seems totally outrageous, but the more she thinks about it, the more it makes sense to Mart. The idea is that Marit and Jamie can lose their virginity to each other. They’ll know not to expect anything from each other, it’ll be totally comfortable because they’re already so close, and they won’t be the only seventeen-year-old virgins in Connecticut anymore! It is, Marit thinks, the perfect plan. After having sex with Jamie, Marit won’t be afraid anymore, and she’ll be able to actually have a serious relationship with someone. Like maybe Noah, the new guy at school. He’s completely different from Marit and her friends, but she really likes him, and losing her virginity to Jamie seems, to her, like a good way to finally get--and keep--a great boyfriend.

Of course, this plan is not as simple as Marit thinks. After she gets Jamie to agree to it, she finds out the hard way that sex, no matter how much she doesn’t want it to be, is a big deal. She can’t just lose her virginity to Jamie and expect the whole thing to be over and done with, and have everything go back to how it was before between the two of them, and actually have a relationship with Noah. Nothing is ever that easy.

This book is pretty fantastic. It’s Aury Wallington’s debut novel, and I’m looking forward to reading more from her! Besides the fact that I do like the topic of the story, the writing is great. It does a fantastic job of pulling in the reader, and it flows marvelously. Almost all of the characters were three-dimensional, though I occasionally had some issues with the Caroline character in particular. The narration, in Marit’s voice, is very realistic in depicting what goes on inside the mind of a teenage girl.

I didn’t feel that the ending rang completely true to all of the characters or the situation. That could just be me, personally, though, as the idea for the ending was nice; it was a happy ending, but not the predictable one. That’s great in theory, but making it unpredictable and truer to the story and characters could certainly have been done, I think.
Overall, however, this book was fantastic, with only a few problems. It definitely kept me reading all the way through; whenever I had to put it down and get back to real life, I missed the characters and couldn’t wait to get back to reading POP!. The term page-turner certainly applies to this book, and, as you can see, this made my Best of 2006 list, despite its minor flaws.

Rating: 9/10

Review: Magic Lessons by Justine Larbalestier

MAGIC LESSONS is the second book in Justine Larbalestier’s trilogy, and it’s just as wonderful and gripping as MAGIC OR MADNESS! In this book, there are just as many questions as in the first, as every answer Reason finds only leads to more questions. For everything that’s resolved, there are five more things that I was anxious to find out as I read on! There is plenty of suspense in this book.

Reason, Tom, and Jay-Tee have all stepped through Esmeralda’s magic door into Sydney, leaving behind Reason’s evil grandfather, Jason Blake, as well as Jay-Tee’s older brother, Danny, in New York. They’re being taught magic by Esmeralda, even Reason and Jay-Tee, though they’re still not sure they trust her the way Tom does. They’ve had some bad experiences with magic, but they know now that they have to use it, or else they’ll go crazy, like their parents. However, every time they use magic, they lose a little time alive. Magic is not the blessing it is in other books; in the world Justine Larbalestier has created, it’s more of a curse.

The door between Sydney and New York is acting strangely. At first, they think it’s because of Jason Blake, but it turns out to be something much more frightening and mysterious. They’re not sure what it is, but Reason knows something about whatever it is that the rest of them don’t: It’s a Cansino. She and Esmeralda are related to it. One more thing: it’s old. As in, centuries old. Reason isn’t sure what to make of this information, but she doesn’t trust Esmeralda, so she’s not telling anyone.

Then, she loses her chance to share it. She is sucked through the door into New York. Reason’s not as lost as she was the first time; after escaping the scary, stinking old man-like creature standing in front of the door, she finds Jay-Tee’s brother Danny, and stays with him. She can’t go back to Sydney; the old man, the Cansino, is guarding the door. She could always buy a plane ticket home (or, rather, Danny could buy her one; money is nothing to him, and she has none), but there are a few things keeping her in New York. One, she wants to find out more about the man guarding the door, and maybe do something to get rid of him if Esmeralda figures out what he is. Two, there’s Danny…

Sequels often don’t live up to the high expectations set by the previous books, but MAGIC LESSONS sure does! It’s just as great as MAGIC OR MADNESS. One thing that I like about these books is Justine Larbalestier’s magic system; it’s very original, and it seems more realistic that, if magic existed, it would have a price. That makes this much darker than a lot of books about kids who find out they have magical powers, and also adds some extra awesomeness to an already great book.

The number of questions being far more than the number of answers also adds something to this novel. Even though I usually think that a book is made less wonderful by a cliff-hanger ending, I don’t think that’s the case in these books. First of all, the main conflict of the book is resolved, but, as all answers do in Justine Larbalestier’s books, those resolutions bring new questions to be answered in the next book. Nothing here has been what it has seemed to be so far, but everything also makes perfect sense. Add this to great writing, wonderful characters, and brilliant ideas, and you’ve got an amazing trilogy! I absolutely cannot wait for book number three.

Rating: 10/10

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

Review: Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier

Review: Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier

Reason Cansino has always been taught to fear her grandmother, Esmeralda. Reason’s mother, Sarafina, has taken them all over Australia, mostly to remote Aboriginal settlements. Reason has only been to a real school once, but Sarafina has taught her lots of things; mostly math and some science.

Reason has been happy with her life, but when Sarafina goes crazy--really crazy, as in trying to kill herself instead of her usual craziness consisting of things like making them walk in straight lines for days--all of that comes to an end. Reason is sent to live with Esmeralda in Sydney. She’s expecting the dark, scary house of her mother’s stories. The one where Sarafina’s cat was murdered. The house where dark magic takes place--imaginary magic, of course, as Sarafina has always said that magic isn’t real. It’s too illogical.

What Reason finds, however, is a spacious, light house, not at all witchy. There are no animal sacrifices in the living room, no bubbling cauldrons in the kitchen. That can’t undo the belief that years of Sarafina’s stories have created, though. Reason is sure that something is going on underneath the surface, and she’s got to run away and get out of Sydney as soon as possible. She’s got to rescue Sarafina from the loony bin where she’s locked up.

Sydney’s not all bad, though; Reason meets Esmeralda’s neighbor, a boy about her age named Tom. She’ll be sorry to leave him behind, but it looks like he’s working with Esmeralda, and she’s got to get away from the witch.

Reason’s escape from Sydney doesn’t exactly go as planned. Instead of escaping with her mother and all of her supplies, Reason finds herself on a winter street in New York City, barefoot and with nothing, after stepping through Esmeralda’s back door.

She doesn’t know how she ended up there, but she’s grateful to Jay-Tee, the teenage girl who rescued her from the freezing, alien streets. She thinks that Jay-Tee is just a friendly passerby…But could there be more to it than that? What is going on? How did Reason step through a door from Sydney to New York? That’s just not possible. What secrets are being hidden from her?

MAGIC OR MADNESS is a wonderful novel from Justine Larbalestier, who’s married to one of my favorite authors of all time, Scott Westerfeld. It’s a fascinating story, and the way it’s told is a little unconventional: some chapters are told in a first person point of view, in Reason’s voice, and others are told in a third person limited POV, from inside either Jay-Tee’s or Tom’s mind. These three different points of view could be confusing, but Justine Larbalestier pulls it off wonderfully.

The story itself is quite a page turner. I first read this book when it first came out, and reread it after getting my own copy in paperback, and I loved it both times. The characters are all wonderfully realistic and interesting. Each answer Reason finds only leads to more questions, keeping suspense throughout the story. The writing is fantastic, and I’m really looking forward to the third book in the trilogy, MAGIC’S CHILD, coming in 2007!

Rating: 9/10

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

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Reading in 2006

Here’s my list of the best Teen books I read in 2006, in no particular order. I’m too lazy to link to reviews, but most are (or will be soon) on the review list (http://tbrlist.blogspot.com). It's a lot of books (36 by my count), but my criteria for these was that I not only remembered off the top of my head (meaning: no list in front of me) that I enjoyed this book, I also remembered why.

Born Again by Kelly Kearney
How It’s Done by Christine Kole Maclean
Notes From The Teenage Underground by Simmone Howell
Behind the Eyes by Francisco X. Stork
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
Pop! by Aury Wallington
Terrier by Tamora Pierce
Stay With Me by Garrett Freymann-Weyr
Bleed by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Hazing Meri Sugarman by M. Apostolina
Such A Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess
Bass Ackwards and Belly Up by Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain
Tallulah Falls by Christine Fletcher
Dear Zoe by Philip Beard
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Major Crush by Jennifer Echols
Devilish by Maureen Johnson
Upstate by Kalisha Buckhannon
Glass Houses by Rachel Caine
Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Wide Awake by David Levithan
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Magic Lessons by Justine Larbalestier
Adios to my Old Life by Caridad Ferrer
Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman
Plan B by Jenny O’Connell
Bras and Broomsticks by Sarah Mlynowski
Wuthering High by Cara Lockwood
Lulu Dark Can See Through Walls by Bennett Madison
Avalon High by Meg Cabot
Piratica by Tanith Lee
Nothing But The Truth (And A Few White Lies) by Justina Chen Headley
The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint
See You Down The Road by Kim Ablon Whitney
Fringe Girl by Valerie Frankel

I’ve noticed a few topics that have come up over and over again in my reading this year. One is the consequences of sex for teenagers. I’m talking about stuff beyond pregnancy or AIDS; I’m talking about the consequences for relationships, self-esteem, stuff like that. A few books on this theme that I enjoyed are Good Girls by Laura Ruby, Pop! by Aury Wallington, and Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr.

Another, less heavy theme that I’ve been seeing is books that are an inside look at life in the spotlight, either because the main character is a celebrity or they’re related to one. These include Tales of a Hollywood Gossip Queen by Mary Kennedy, Secrets of My Hollywood Life by Jen Calonita, Sheer Bliss by Frances O’Brien, My Life Starring Mum by Chloe Rayban, and Adios to My Old Life by Caridad Ferrer.

One more trend is toward vampire books! Off the top of my head, I can think of Boys That Bite by Mari Mancusi, High School Bites by Liza Conrad, and Braced2Bite by Serena Robar (though I haven’t read this one yet, it’s on my wish list). I guess this isn’t unusual, though; vampires have always been popular in books, movies, and television. Just look at the success of the TV shows Buffy and Angel (me, I’m an addict…I watch the reruns on FX and TNT all the time now that they’re over)!

I’m curious to hear about your favorite books of the year and any trends you’ve noticed. Leave a comment or send me a message!

Review: Behind the Eyes by Francisco X. Stork

Review: Behind the Eyes by Francisco X. Stork

Sixteen-year-old Hector Robles’s life will never be the same again. Living his entire life in the projects of El Paso, Texas, he’s always stayed away from the gangs--but his brother Filiberto brought an end to that. A little more than a year after the death of their father, Hector, Fili, and their younger sister Aurora have a run-in with some members of the Discipulos. Hector would like to keep out of their way after that, as would Aurora, but Fili sets his sights on Gloria…Who just happens to be dating Chava, leader of the Discipulos.

Fili just can’t let it go. His conflict with Chava escalates, until, one night, he ends up dead. In less than a year and a half, Hector has lost his older brother and his father. Even though it’s not something he could have imagined himself doing, Hector goes after Chava.

Chava does more damage to Hector than Hector does to him, leaving Hector with various rather serious injuries, including the loss of his hearing in one ear. When he recovers, a social work has some rather grave news for him: Chava wants him dead. The only way he can keep safe, as well as protect his mother and sister, is to leave town.

Mrs. Garzo, the social worker, tells him there’s one good place for him to go now. He’s charged with the aggravated assault of Chava, and there’s a school, in another city, that accepts kids who have been in trouble with the law. There, he’ll be safe from the Discipulos, he’ll get a good education, and his mother and sister won’t be involved with any of the gangs anymore. Hector makes a decision: he’ll go to Furman.

There, he makes friends with a colorful cast of characters, and could maybe have a fresh start and a new life…If his past can ever stop following him.

BEHIND THE EYES is divided up into three parts. The first and last part deal with Hector’s time after his brother’s death, and the second part takes place before Fili’s “accident.” Francisco X. Stork tells the story of whatever is going on in each section of the book in the past tense, and flashbacks are in the present tense, which threw me a little at first, but I quickly got used to it. The non-chronological division of the book was also a little odd, but I did like the way it was divided, and, in the end, it made sense.

Stork is a brilliant writer, and BEHIND THE EYES is a page turner. It’s told in a fresh, captivating voice, and the story itself is a fascinating one. It was inspired by Stork’s own time living in the projects of El Paso, and some of the Chicano teenagers he knew there. That Stork knows what he’s writing really shows, and it adds an extra dimension to an already wonderful book. The characters are diverse, fascinating and believable, each one well-thought out and three-dimensional. It’s a character-driven story, and a fantastic one. This is definitely one of my favorites of 2006.

Rating: 10/10

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

Review: Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

STORY OF A GIRL deals with certain actions and their consequences--much more realistically than some similar books I’ve read recently. Not that the others weren’t good, but in those, the actions are a part of the book, and it’s all resolved nicely within a few weeks of what happens. By starting her story years after the event that sets off all of this, Sara Zarr makes the resolution much more realistic.

When she was thirteen, Deanna’s father caught her with her seventeen-year-old brother’s friend, Tommy, in the back of his car having sex.

Three years later, Deanna knows she made a mistake. She didn’t love Tommy; she’s not even sure that she liked him. She made a mistake, and she’s more than ready to forget it every happened and moved on.

Problem is, nobody’s willing to let her. Not only at school but in her own home, Deanna has the reputation of slut, despite the fact that she’s only ever been with Tommy, and that was years ago. Even her father still thinks that of her. The only people she trusts are her older brother and his girlfriend who live in the basement with their baby, and her two best friends, Lee and Jason. To everyone else, she’s just a slut.

That is, until she gets a job at the local pizza parlor and meets one more person who believes in Deanna for who she is. While her boss is a great guy, Deanna isn’t sure about this job, one that’s forced her to confront her past much more directly than she’d like: Tommy is a fellow employee there. Yes, that Tommy.

Sara Zarr is an amazing writer who has written a wonderful and painfully realistic novel about the far-reaching consequences of sex. This theme has been one I’ve noticed recently in my reading, and I think Sara Zarr does the best job of realistically telling the story of what could happen, and it’s a lot messier than some of the other stories I’ve read about the consequences of sex. The problems of the characters in these other novels seem to be a lot more clear-cut and easier to resolve than Deanna’s, or they’re at least resolved quickly.

In STORY OF A GIRL, it’s more realistic, and, on top of that, fabulously written. The story flows nicely, and it’s told in the believable voice of Deanna, a very three-dimensional character. The other characters are quite lifelike as well, but Deanna is the best of these. The way these characters all interact has obviously been well-thought out, and the characters stay true to what they’re written as all through the novel, which is quite an accomplishment. Everything is held together marvelously, resulting in a wonderful must-read for all teenagers and adults!

Rating: 10/10

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Review: Bleed by Laurie Faria Stolarz

BLEED is a collection of interconnected short stories about several teenagers over the course of one day. It’s a big day for all of them, from Nicole, who hooks up with Kelly’s boyfriend, Sean, to Kelly herself, who, on the opposite coast from all of this, hooks up with the convicted murderer she’s been pen palling with for five and a half years, Robby--who finds himself in an interesting situation with Joy, a fifteen year old waitress who wants to be a princess, after Kelly leaves him at the diner where Joy works. That’s just a part of it; each and every one of their stories is somehow connected to all of the others. People who have never heard each other’s names are connected. It’s too confusing to explain all of their connections, but they’re there, and they’re fascinating.

The whole idea of these stories is very interesting. It reminded me a little of REAL TIME, by Pnina Kass Moed, but some of that switched points of view from paragraph to paragraph, and each character has one short story in Laurie Faria Stolarz’s book. The stories themselves are powerful, haunting, and painful to the point of disturbing sometimes--but also very real. These are moving stories, each with a realistic, well-written character at its center.

These are beautifully created stories, but they are not happy and wholesome; they are real, holding nothing back, so be prepared for that if you decide to pick this collection up (as you should).

I’ll be looking up Laurie Faria Stolarz’s backlist (the Blue is for Nightmares series), and waiting anxiously for the companion to BLEED that she’s writing!

Rating: 10/10

Review: Stay With Me by Garret Freymann-Weyr

Stay With Me by Garret Freymann-Weyr

When Leila’s much older sister, Rebecca, kills herself, it changes the lives of everyone who knew her, and many people who didn’t. But did anyone really know Rebecca, or just the face she showed them? This is just one of the questions that Leila can’t help but ask herself in the months after her sister’s death. Did she know Rebecca? Or did she only know Rebecca through her interactions with other people? Leila knows her father. She knew her father’s first wife, Janie, who died a while before Rebecca. But if she had really known Rebecca, if anyone had known Rebecca fully, wouldn’t they have been able to figure out Rebecca’s reason for doing what she did?

It’s for that reason that Leila is searching when she meets Eamon. At first he’s only a customer in the café where she once saw Rebecca with the mysterious T., a man she thinks might know something of the reason Rebecca had for committing suicide. Later, though, he becomes something much more.

Clare is Leila’s surviving older half-sister. Clare has her own life: a boyfriend, a career, and an apartment--suddenly one occupant short. Rebecca lived there, and now that Leila’s parents are moving to Poland for the year, she will move in with Clare. During this year, Clare and Raphael, their unrelated “cousin,” will become much, much more important in Leila’s life. She will get to know them, maybe in the way she never got to know Rebecca--the way she is still trying to get to know Rebecca, even after her death.

STAY WITH ME is a very powerful, moving story about love, loss, and life. It’s about the way life keeps going on, even after a tragedy. Since it takes place in New York, since Rebecca dies right after the attacks on the city in 2001, the characters are healing from their own personal tragedy, but also, along with everyone else in the city, from the attack on them all. That’s not the focus of the novel, but it’s definitely a part of it.

Garret Freymann-Weyr is brilliant at creating wonderful, three dimensional characters. I’ve read two of her previous novels (MY HEARTBEAT and WHEN I WAS OLDER), and that’s something that can be seen in all of her work. It’s a talent, and I was glad to see it shows just as much in STAY WITH ME as in the other two novels. We learn plenty, even about the characters only glimpsed in the novel. The character I felt I knew the least was Leila’s mother, but she was not really a part of this story. She hardly knew Rebecca, whose death is what sets off the whole story (though Leila chooses to start the telling of it with her visits to Janie, her father’s first wife). There are so many parts to this story, but Rebecca, her life and death, is what ties it all together so marvelously.

Rating: 10/10

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

Monday, December 25, 2006

Cybils Fantasy/Sci-Fi Nominees

Here are the Cybils fantasy and sci-fi nominees! In bold are the ones I've read. There are seventeen. I don't have time to link to reviews now, but maybe later. Hope everyone who celebrates it has had a happy Christmas!

Abadazad: The Road to Inconceivable
by J.M. DeMatteis, Mike Ploog
Hyperion

Agent Boo: The Littlest Agent
by Alex De Campi; illustrated by Edo Fuijkschot
TokyoPop

Amazing Flight of Darius Frobisher, The
by Bill Harley
Peachtree Publishers

Anatopsis
by Chris Abouzeid
Penguin: Dutton

Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony
by Eoin Colfer
Hyperion: Miramax

AutumnQuest
by Terie Garrison
Flux

Avielle of Rhia
by Dia Calhoun
Marshall Cavendish Children's Books

Beast of Noor, The
by Janet Lee Carey
Simon & Schuster: Atheneum

Beasts of Clawstone Castle, The
by Eva Ibbotson
Penguin: Dutton

Beka Cooper: Terrier
by Tamora Pierce
Random House

Bella at Midnight
by Diane Stanley
HarperCollins

Blue Bloods
by Melissa de la Cruz
Hyperion

Book of Story Beginnings, The
by Kristin Kladstrup
Candlewick

Braced2Bite
by Serena Robar
Penguin: Berkley

Changeling
by Delia Sherman
Penguin: Viking Juvenile

Charlie Bone And The Hidden King
by Jenny Nimmo
Scholastic

Corbenic
by Catherine Fisher
HarperCollins: Greenwillow

Darkling Plain, A
by Philip Reeve
HarperCollins: Eos

Death of a Ghost
by Charles Butler
HarperCollins

Devilish
by Maureen Johnson
Penguin: Razorbill

Dream Spinner
by Bonnie Dobkin
Flux

Endymion Spring
by Matthew Skelton
RandomHouse: Delacorte

Enemies
by Christopher Golden and Ford Lytle Gilmore
Penguin: Razorbill

Erec Rex: The Dragon's Eye
by Kaza Kingsley
Firelight Press

Evil Star
by Anthony Horowitz
Scholastic

Eye Pocket: The Fantastic Society of Peculiar Adventurers, The
by E.J. Crow
DNA Press

Fablehaven
by Brandon Mull
Shadow Mountain

Fairest
by Gail Carson Levine
HarperCollins

Fetch, The
by Chris Humphreys
RandomHouse: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Floating Island, The
by Elizabeth Haydon
Tor: Starscape

Gideon: The Cutpurse
by Linda Buckley-Archer
Simon & Schuster

Gilda Joyce, and the Ladies of the Lake
by Jennifer Allison
Penguin: Dutton

Golden
by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
RandomHouse: Delacorte

Good Fairies of New York, The
by Martin Millar
Soft Skull

Gossamer
by Lois Lowry
Houghton Mifflin: Walter Lorraine Books

Hellbent
by Anthony McGowan
Simon & Schuster

Here Be Monsters
by Alan Snow
Simon & Schuster: Atheneum

Here, There Be Dragons
by James A. Owen
Simon Simon S&Samp;amp; Schuster Schuster: Simon & Schuster

High School Bites: The Lucy Chronicles
by Liza Conrad
NAL Trade

Homefree
by Nina Wright
Flux

Horns & Wrinkles
by Joseph Helgerson
Houghton Mifflin

Horse Passages
by Jennifer Macaire
Medallion Press

Into the Woods
by Lyn Gardner
David Fickling Books

King of Attolia, The
by Megan Whalen Turner
HarperCollins: Greenwillow

Larklight
by Philip Reeve
Bloomsbury

Last Days, The
by Scott Westerfield
Penguin: Razorbill

Last Dragon, The
by Silvana de Mari
Hyperion: Miramax

Last of the Wilds
by Trudi Canavan
HarperCollins: Eos

Legend of Zoey, The
by Candie Moonshower
RandomHouse: Delacorte

Life As We Knew It
by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Harcourt Children's Books

London Calling
by Edward Bloor
RandomHouse: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Looking Glass Wars, The
by Frank Beddor
Penguin: Dial

Lurkers, The
by Charles Butler
Usborne Publishing Ltd

Magic Lessons
by Justine Larbalestier
Penguin: Razorbill

Monster Blood Tattoo: The Foundling
by DM Cornish
Penguin: Putnam

New Moon
by Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown (Hachette)

Peter Pan in Scarlet
by Geraldine McCaughrean
Simon & Schuster: Margaret K. McElderry

Pinhoe Egg, The
by Diana Wynne Jones
HarperCollins: Greenwillow

Privilege of the Sword
by Ellen Kushner
RandomHouse: Bantam Dell

Prophet of Yonwood, The
by Jeanne Duprau
Random House

Ptolemy's Gate
by Jonathan Stroud
Hyperion: Miramax

Pucker
by Melanie Gideon
Penguin: Razorbill

Quest of the Dragon Stone
by Ami Blackford
Red Cygnet Press

Ranger's Apprentice: The Burning Bridge, The
by John Flanagan
Penguin: Philomel

River Secrets
by Shannon Hale
Bloomsbury

Samurai
by Jason Hightman
HarperCollins: Eos

Sea of Monsters, The
by Rick Riordan
Hyperion: Miramax

Septimus Heap #2: Flyte
by Angie Sage
HarperCollins: Katherine Tegen Books

Shadow in the Deep
by L.B. Graham
P & R Publishing

Shadow Thieves, The
by Anne Ursu
Simon & Schuster: Atheneum

Silver City
by Cliff McNish
Carolrhoda Books

Sir Thursday
by Garth Nix
Scholastic

Sisters Grimm: The Problem Child
by Michael Buckley
Amulet

Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1, The
by PJ Haarsma
Candlewick

Stones of Abraxas
by K Osborn Sullivan
Medallion

Summer King, The
by O.R. Melling
Amulet Books

Sword of Anton
by Gene Del Vecchio
Pelican Publishing Company

Temping Fate
by Esther Friesner
Penguin: Dutton

Tide Knot, The
by Helen Dunmore
HarperCollins

Travels of Thelonious
by Susan Schade and Jon Buller
Simon & Schuster: Simon & Schuster

Undine
by Penni Russon
HarperCollins: Greenwillow

Voices
by Ursula Le Guin
Harcourt Children's Books

Wabi
by Joseph Bruchac
Penguin: Dial

Wall and the Wing, The
by Laura Ruby
HarperCollins: Eos

Wintersmith
by Terry Pratchett
HarperTeen

Wolfproof
by Maureen Doyle McQuerry
Idylls Press

Wuthering High
by Cara Lockwood
MTV

Book Blogger Meme

From Confessions of a Bibliovore

Meme for Book Bloggers

How many other kidlit blogs do you read?
Tons! I can't even count. There are a lot bookmarked on my favorites, a couple I've subscribed to email updates to, some subscribed to on myspace, and some subscribed to on livejournal.

What's the most recent add?
Interactive Reader. I just found it through Confessions of a Bibliovore--same place this meme came from!

How often do you post a book review to your blog?
I try to review books as I read them, but it usually doesn't work too well. For instance, right now I have eight books that I've read and need to review piled up next to my computer! So I usually do it all at once, when I get the time.

Do you post about anything else?
Yes. I usually post a list of contests at least once a month, as well as most wanted books and stuff like that.

Do you only blog books you like, or the stinkers too?
I blog about most of the books I read. There are few exceptions. I like most of them--If I don't think I'll like a book at all, I don't pick it up, and I'm usually a good judge of that sort of thing.

How do you keep track of what you want to read?
Not very well! I have a must-have books list as well as a froogle wishlist that I don't update very often, and various titles scrawled on scraps of paper.

How do you keep track of what you've read?
Again, not very well! I sometimes make attempts to, but...I don't. One of my 2007 new year's resolutions is going to be to keep a book journal, though! I'd like to know how many books and pages I read in a year, at least.

Do you work with kids?
Not really.

In the age group of the books you mostly blog about?
N/A

Do you read grown-up books?
Occasionally...Usually thrillers. Almost 100% of what I read, however, is YA.

Review: Charmed by Carrie Mac

CHARMED is one of the Orca Soundings line of books for reluctant teen readers. It sounds like an interesting enough story: Izzy finds herself caught in the sex trade after her mother leaves home and her mother's boyfriend leaves Izzy to fend for herself. Definitely a heavy topic, but it sounds like something that might catch the attention of a reluctant reader, doesn't it? It's not very long, either--a very quick read.

It definitely has the ability to grab the reader. And, as it's short, it kept my attention. However, I don't think that Carrie Mac did a very good job of writing a book geared toward reluctant readers. The writing wasn't particularly good, and important plot points were really rushed through. If you write a good enough book to keep someone's attention, reluctant reader or not, it can afford to be longer and go into more detail about what's going on! Nothing--not the plot, not the various characters, nothing--felt like it was explored to the extent it should have been. In an effort to keep the book short, it feels like it was cut down so much that it doesn't live up to its potential at all. Just because a book has to be short doesn't mean it can't be good. In fact, I just read a book, AN ORDER OF AMELIE, HOLD THE FRIES (review soon!), that, I believe, was even shorter than CHARMED--but oh so much better. Reluctant readers are reluctant because they have to read not-so-good books in school, a lot of the time, and the way to make them love reading is to give them wonderful books to read--not short, not so good ones! Hopefully the other Orca Soundings books on my to-read stack will be better.

Rating: 5/10

Sunday, December 17, 2006

How I Rate Books

Just in case you're interested, this is how I rate the books reviewed here, out of ten.

I try to rate these books based on how well they accomplish what they're supposed to be. Just because a book is "fluff" doesn't mean it has a bad rating; in fact a lot of books that many people would consider "fluff" get great ratings! Another part of the rating is how much I enjoyed reading the book. If it kept my attention, drew me in, and was an enjoyable read, that boosts its rating. It gets bonus points if I'm still thinking about it while I'm not actually reading, too.

Some of the rating does come from stuff like characterization, dialogue, style, plot, pacing--the sort of thing you'd include in a paper for your English class. That's not the main part of it, though, unless flaws with that stuff are extremely distracting from the rest of the book.

Basically, the majority of the rating is more how I felt reading the book than how good the book is, if that makes sense.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

New reviews on Teensreadtoo.com!

Here are my latest reviews for TeensReadToo.com!

Cupcake by Rachel Cohn
Born Again by Kelly Kearney
21 Proms ed. by David Levithan and Daniel Ehrenhaft (Anthology)

21 Proms and Born Again got gold awards from me!

Must-Have Books!

There are a ton of books that look awesome that have come out this year or are upcoming books to be released next year. Here's my list--look for edits as it grows longer!

Girl At Sea by Maureen Johnson
Magic's Child by Justine Larbalestier
Fringe Girl In Love by Valerie Frankel
The Scarlet Letterman by Cara Lockwood
Braced2Bite by Serena Robar
Tattoo by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Frogs & French Kisses by Sarah Mlynowski
Flawless by Sara Shepard
Foreign Exposure: The Social Climber Abroad by Lauren Mechling and Laura Moser
The Poker Diaries by Liza Conrad
Now You See Her by Jaquelyn Mitchard
Moon Riders by Theresa Tomlinson
Faerie Path by Frewin Jones
Street Love by Walter Dean Myers
Dark Cindy by M. Apostolina
Oh My Goth by Gena Showalter
Eva Underground by Dandi Daley Mackall
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
This is All: The Pillowbook of Cordelia Kenn by Aidan Chambers
The Celebutantes: On the Avenue by Antonio Pagliarulo
Ironside by Holly Black
Secret Society Girl by Diana Peterfreund
Into The Wild by Sarah Beth Durst
Bloom by Elizabeth Scott
Split Screen by Brent Hartinger
Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator by Jennifer Allison
The Off Season by Catherine Murdock
Harmless by Dana Reinhardt
The Dashwood Sisters' Secrets of Love by Rosie Rushton

(P.S. Donations are accepted!)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Newsletter and Contest

Please click the button below to join the Teen Book Review newsletter! I'll be sending out the first newsletter soon, and it will include a special contest just for subscribers, so hurry and sign up! If you don't have a yahoo ID, you'll be able to sign up for one easily.


Click here to join teenbookreview
Click to join teenbookreview

Cybils nominees for YA Fiction

Here's a list of the Cybils nominees for young adult fiction. In bold are the ones I've read; quite a few more are on my (rather full) to-read shelf. I've read twenty-one of these books. If I count correctly, there are 80 books on the list. I've included links to my reviews for those I've reviewed (all other links go to Amazon). I'd love to read more; those on my to-read shelf have just jumped up a few places! How many have you read?

Young Adult Fiction

Abundance of Katherines, An
written by John Green
Dutton Juvenile

Accidents of Nature
written by Harriet McBryde Johnson
Henry Holt

Adios to My Old Life (review)
written by Caridad Ferrer
MTV Press

After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away
written by Joyce Carol Oates
HarperTeen

Alice in the Know
written by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Atheneum

Angel's Choice
written by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Simon Pulse

Angelmonster
written by Veronica Bennett
Candlewick

Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, The
written by Barry Lyga
Houghton Mifflin

Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Vol. 1: The Pox Party
written by M.T. Anderson
Candlewick

Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, A (review)
written by Tanya Lee Stone
Wendy Lamb Books

Bad Kitty
written by Michele Jaffe
HarperCollins

Beast
written by Ally Kennen
Push (Scholastic)

Becoming Chloe
written by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Between Mom and Jo
written by Julie Ann Peters
Little, Brown Young Readers

Blind Faith
written by Ellen Wittlinger
Simon & Schuster

Book Thief, The
written by Markus Zusak
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Born to Rock
written by Gordan Korman
Hyperion

Boy Book, The: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them
written by E. Lockhart
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The
written by John Boyne
David Fickling Books

Braid, The
written by Helen Frost
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life, A
written by Dana Reinhardt
Wendy Lamb Books

Christopher Killer, The
written by Alane Ferguson
Viking Juvenile

Dairy Queen
written by Catherine Murdock
Houghton Mifflin

Dirty Liar
written by Brian James
Push (Scholastic)

Enthusiasm (review)
written by Polly Shulman
Putnam Juvenile

Estrella's Quinceanera
written by Malin Alegria
Simon & Schuster

Eva Underground
written by Dandi Daley Mackall
Harcourt Children's Books

Extraordinary Adventures of Horatio Lyle, The
written by Catherine Webb
ATOM

Fringe Girl (review-second one down)
written by Valerie Frankel
NAL Trade

Going Under
written by Kathe Koje
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Goy Crazy
written by Melissa Schorr
Hyperion

Grist
written by Heather Waldorf
Red Deer Press

Hattie Big Sky
written by Kirby Larson
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Hollywood Sisters: Backstage Pass
written by Mary Wilcox
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

How It's Done (review to come)
written by Christine Kole MacLean
Flux

How to Be Popular (review)
written by Meg Cabot
HarperTeen

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You (review)
written by Ally Carter
Hyperion

Incantation
written by Alice Hoffman
Little, Brown Young Readers

In the Garage
written by Alma Fullerton
Red Deer Press

It's Kind of a Funny Story: A Novel
written by Ned Vizzini
Miramax

Just In Case
written by Meg Rosoff
Wendy Lamb Books

Just Listen
written by Sarah Dessen
Viking Juvenile

King Dork
written by Frank Portman
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet
written by Kashmira Sheth
Hyperion

Lorenzo and the Turncoat
written by Lila Guzman and Rick Guzman
Arte Público Press (Piñata Books)

Love Curse of the Rumbaughs, The
written by Jack Gantos
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Loving Will Shakespeare
written by Carolyn Meyer
Harcourt Children's Books

More Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet
written by Lola Douglas
Razorbill

Murder Of Bindy Mackenzie, The
written by Jaclyn Moriarty
Arthur A. Levine Books

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
written by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Notes From The Midnight Driver
written by Jordan Sonnenblick
Scholastic

Nothing But the Truth (and a Few White Lies) (review)
written by Justina Chen Headley
Little, Brown Young Readers

Ophelia
written by Lisa Klein
Bloomsbury

Over a Thousand Hills I Walk With You
written by Hanna Jansen
Carolrhoda Books

Paranoid Park
written by Blake Nelson
Viking Juvenile

Plenty Porter
written by Brandon Noonan
Amulet

Private
written by Kate Brian
Simon Pulse

Pursuit of Happiness, The (review)
written by Tara Altebrando
MTV Press

Queen of Cool, The
written by Cecil Castellucci
Candlewick

Rash
written by Pete Hautman
Simon & Schuster

Real Question, The
written by Adrian Fogelin
Peachtree

Returnable Girl
written by Pamela Lowell
Marshall Cavendish Children's Books

Rules of Survival, The
written by Nancy Werlin
Dial

Runaway (review)
written by Wendelin Van Draanen
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Samurai Shortstop
written by Alan M. Gratz
Dial

Simply Divine
written by Jacquelin Thomas
Pocket Books

Skin
written by Adrienne Maria Vrettos
Margaret K. McElderry

Sold
written by Patricia McCormick
Hyperion

Stay With Me
written by Garret Freymann-Weyr
Houghton Mifflin

Tallulah Falls (review)
written by Christine Fletcher
Bloomsbury

This Is All
written by Aidan Chambers
Amulet

This Time, Last Year
written by Kitt Raser Kelleher
Authorhouse

Traitor
written by Gudrun Pausewang
Carolrhoda Books

Trigger (review)
written by Susan Vaught
Bloomsbury

True and Faithful Narrative, A
written by Katherine Sturtevant
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

TTFN
written by Lauren Myracle
Amulet

Unresolved, The
written by T. K. Welsh
Dutton Children's Books

Viking Warrior
written by Judson Roberts
HarperCollins

Waiting for Eugene
written by Sallie Lowenstein
Lion Stone Books

Wish House, The
written by Celia Rees
Candlewick

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Review: The Seer by Linda Joy Singleton

Don't Die Dragonfly is the first book in Linda Joy Singleton's The Seer series. If the next books are as good as book number one, this is sure to be one of my favorite book series (earning a place next to books by such fabulous authors as JK Rowling, Tamora Pierce, John Marsden, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, and Scott Westerfeld).

Some problems have caused Sabine Rose to be expelled from her old school, and she just wants her time at Sheridan High to be normal. No more creepy weirdness--namely, having psychic visions. Unfortunately, wishes don't always come true. Her psychic powers are acting up again.

In her visions, Sabine sees a girl with a dragonfly tattoo. These are scary, dangerous visions, and Sabine doesn't know what to do about them. Can she figure it out before it's too late?

This is a very enjoyable novel, suspenseful and full of great characters. Linda Joy Singleton is a great writer! This is highly reccomended for anyone who loves a good mystery with a great paranormal element. Book number two in this series is in my to-read stack; I can't wait to get a chance to read it!

Rating: 8.5/10

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

Review: A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

This is a verse novel about three different girls, nothing in common, who barely know each other, and what they do have in common: one bad boy.

Josie is a confident freshman who doesn't need a guy to feel like "a legitimate person." High school, however, can do a number on even the most confident girl's self-esteem. Before long, Josie is dating a "studly senior." However, this bad boy isn't all he's cracked up to be. Josie learns the hard way about bad boys, and she writes a message to other girsl: a warning, in the back of her school library's copy of Judy Blume's classic Forever.

Next in line is Nicolette, a junior. She's not sitting around and waiting for guys; she's going to them. She sees power in it when they want her.

Aviva calls herself a "criss-crosser." She's got friends in all the cliques, but is a member of none. She finds out what this bad boy's all about, too.

They each learn the same things about this popular, good-looking guy. They find out who he really is, even though everyone in school thinks he's great. In the process, however, they also find something of themselves.

A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl, Tanya Lee Stone's powerful debut novel, is a must read. The poetry flows nicely; it's easy to understand and follow, not the stereotype of hard to understand, complicated, unenjoyable stereotype of poetry created for so many people in high school English classrooms across America. It's an honest story, with a good voice, and the nameless bad boy is someone that can be found at every high school.

Rating: 9/10

Review: The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

This book has popped up everywhere. I've seen it all over the place! For some reason, however, I haven't been too enthusiastic about reading it. I'm not sure why; it's the "true" story of Lewis Carroll's famous Alice In Wonderland, and I usually really like classic stories retold. But this one...it just didn't spark my interest. Then, I got an ARC in the mail, and figured, why not?, and read it.

Wow, am I ever glad I did! I absolutely loved this book. It kept my attention (and the final page count is over 350 pages--it's pretty long!) all the way through. I didn't just keep reading; I was completely absorbed. Every time I had to go do something else, I'd race through it as quickly as possible, just to get back to The Looking Glass Wars.

This is the story of Alyss Heart (Lewis Carrol, the horrid man, even misspelled her name!), the heir to the throne of the great queendom of Wonderland. All seems well on the morning of the princess' seventh birthday; she wishes her father could be there to celebrate with her, but he's hurrying back, and the queendom is celebrating in honor of Alyss.

Quickly, things go horribly, horribly wrong. Alyss' murderous, insane aunt Redd, long since exiled and passed over for the throne, chooses that morning to overthrow Alyss' mother, Queen Genevieve, and take control of Wonderland for herself. Genevieve is beheaded, Alyss' father murdered as well, and everyone loyal to them is dead or hunted by Redd's soldiers or her loyal, deadly assassin, the Cat.

Alyss herself flees through the Pool of Tears, a portal to a parallel world, with Hatter Madigan, her mother's bodyguard. However, the two are separated, and while Hatter Madigan ends up in France, searching for his charge, Alyss herself ends up in Victorian England, where she joins a ragtag group of homeless children. She uses her talents at imagining things into being to make money so the group can eat well, but, the longer she is away from Wonderland, her imagination grows weaker and weaker.

Eventually, she is taken off of the streets and adopted by the wealthy Liddell family. There, she is Alice Liddell, and Wonderland a children's story. Even the man she thought believed her, the Reverand Charles Dodgson, writes a book (under the name Lewis Carroll) that horribly distorts her story. He makes light of her story, turning her tragedy into an amusing children's tale.

Back in Wonderland, the Alyssians, naming themselves after the princess whom they believe is dead, rebel against Redd's rule. Alyss' childhood friend Dodge Anders, her old tutor, and various others stay hidden in the forest, an active resistance against Redd. However, the evil queen grows stronger all the time, and they aren't sure they can beat her alone.

All hope is not lost; Alyss is not, as they believe, dead. They find out she is alive and well in England...But is she still the same person, heir to the throne of Wonderland, the one who can lead them against Redd? Or is she now completely and totally lost, to the character that is Alice Liddell?

Frank Beddor has created a brilliant, absorbing story. Sure, the pacing seems a little off; important things are rushed through sometimes, and unimportant things dragged on. And I did notice some awkwardness with the dialogue. Some of the characters should have been more fleshed-out as well.

With all of that going against it, what makes The Looking Glass Wars so amazing? That, while reading it, none of that seems to matter. This story goes beyond all of those little details, sucking you in completely from beginning to end. Even with those flaws, it still left me desperate for more of the story (thankfully, it'll be part of a trilogy).

Rating: 9/10

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Contests galore!

There are some super-awesome contests going on this month! Check it out:

On the fabulous TeensReadToo.com, it's the 31 Days of Giving contest! You can send in your entries any time this month to win great prizes. Each day has different prizes, and all you have to do to enter your name in the drawing is correctly answer the day's holiday trivia question. These fabulous prizes include books, gift cards, and other goodies. Check it out here.

Also on TRT is the latest monthly contest. This month, they're giving away advance copies of Judy Gregerson's Bad Girls Club and autographed copies of Judith Gould's The Secret Heiress. Details here.

YABC
has a contest going to win one of five copies of Polly Shulman's fabulous novel Enthusiasm. Enter here.

You can win a copy of Caridad Ferrer's fantastic book, Adios to my Old Life! This is a great read--check out my review here. Details here.

M. Apostolina is giving away free autographed copies of Dark Cindy, his latest book staring Cindy Bixby and Meri Sugarman (see my reviews for TRT of Meri Strikes Back and Hazing Meri Sugarman). I can't wait to read this book! All you have to do to enter is send in a picture of yourself with a copy of Hazing Meri Sugarman, and you'll be entered to win. Details here.

Rachel Cohn is giving away signed advance copies of Cupcake. I've already had a chance to read this one (I'll be reviewing it for TRT soon), and it is fabulous. Enter the contest, especially if you're a fan of Rachel's other books about Cyd Charise, Shrimp and Gingerbread (also, by the way, fantastic books). All you have to do is post some Cyd Charisse-themed haiku! Details here.

You can also win a copy of Simmone Howell's book, Notes From The Teenage Underground (this one's on my to-read shelf...looks great!). For this one, all you have to do is write a "Western haiku"--meaning "three lines, no syllable count." The best five win! Details here.

YABC is also giving away copies of The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor. I just finished this one; it's fantastic (expect a review soon!). Go here to enter!