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Move to Tumblr? February 14, 2011

Posted by Katie in reviews.
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Well, as you’ve noticed — or maybe not noticed — I haven’t posted on the blog since September. I’m still reading just as much as I used to, but haven’t really felt like I needed to blog. Part of that is because I’ve got so many librarian contacts and friends, and now I follow so many bloggers on Twitter that I talk about books ALL THE TIME. I’ve lost that need to use the blog as a vehicle to share my love of reading.

I’ve also taken on way more responsibility at work, and am finding that I lack the time to dedicate to a blog. Or at least, I want to spend more time blogging than I currently can.

(And I’ve started blogging about storytime, which is easier to update and really makes me very happy.)

But, I do miss blogging about YA. So, a few weeks ago I started a Tumblr account here and I just wanted to let everyone about it. I don’t know what it will become, or whether or not there will be reviews there, but the core principle is still the same — I’m sharing things I love about reading and books.

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review: “wayfarer” August 10, 2010

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Wayfarer by R.J. Anderson.
HarperTeen // ARC // 304 pages.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Traveling ARC Tours.

Linden, a fifteen-year-old faery, has always lived in the Oak with her fellow faeries. But when the faeries of Oakenwyld are threatened with extinction, Linden is trusted with the last of their magic to go out into the human world to try and find faeries to help the Oak survive. Timothy has just been suspended from school and is staying at the house next to the Oak. Two worlds collide when the two teenagers meet and begin a race throughout England to find a cure for Linden’s people.

I thought that Wayfarer was a great companion novel to Spell Hunter. I think that it’s hard for the second book in a series to live up to the first most of the time, but I was pleasantly surprised by Wayfarer. However, it’s hard to write a review without comparing the two books. Where Spell Hunter has stronger characters, I felt like Wayfarer’s world building and general plot was much heartier than the first book.

(In other words, these two books complement each other perfectly, and when read together give readers the best of both worlds. I was lucky enough to read them on the same day, one right after another.)

Even though this plot had a lot more at stake (the Oak’s survival), I wasn’t as invested in Linden’s story as I had been with Knife. Linden’s character was almost at arms-length for me, and I had trouble relating with her. (It might have been because she was so innocent – which is not a fault; just not my personal preference.) Timothy, on the other hand, was so interesting and I loved watching his development throughout the story. He really changes drastically, but realistically!

I’m kind of at a loss about who to best sell this book to. I think it would work for younger teens reading at a higher level or for sensitive older teens who want faery stories outside of the urban/dark fantasy genre.

Amazon
IndieBound
SWAN catalog
R.J. Anderson

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review: “life, after” July 17, 2010

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Life After by Sarah Darer Littman.
Scholastic Press // ARC // 288 pages.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Traveling ARC Tours.

Dani lives in Argentina with her family – father, mother, and little sister. She has friends, and a boyfriend but her life is nowhere near perfect. Seven years ago, a terrorist attack took the lives of her aunt and unborn cousin. Right now, her family is struggling financially since they lost their family store and Dani’s father is depressed and angry. Many people are leaving Argentina and Dani’s family soon plans a move to America, for a new chance at life. But Dani and her family aren’t the only ones suffering from the aftermath of a terrorist attack – some of the students at Dani’s new school have personal ties to the recent September 11th attack in New York City.

I really enjoyed “Life, After.” I thought that it was a fairly realistic portrayal of grief and the struggle to return to normal after such catastrophic events take place. The story has great layers – parallels between the AMIA building in Buenos Aires terrorist attack and the more well-known (coming from a United States perspective) 9/11 terrorist attack that will really have readers relating to both teen’s struggles.

This novel covers a lot of difficult subjects (terrorism, immigration, poverty, autism spectrum disorders, grief, depression) without coming off as heavy-handed in terms of lessons or morals. And even though it might seem like those are a lot of topics to cover, the novel has great rhythm and flow. I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the subjects at all.

My favorite parts of the novel were actually the scenes in Argentina, and I was sad to see us move from an unfamiliar place and setting to the very familiar contemporary United States. (My suspicion is that teens will have the opposite reaction.) I’m not sure how accurate the portrayal of Argentina is (just looked it up and the author has never been to Argentina, but did a good amount of research) – but I absolutely loved the setting and thought it came to life. I could see the streets and trees. I could imagine Dani’s apartment.

The characterization was awesome, and I thought Dani was full of life. Definitely enjoyed this one and can see a lot of different kinds of angles to sell it to teens. Looking forward to reading more of Darer Littman’s books! (Like “Purge” which is already on my TBR pile.)

Amazon
IndieBound
SWAN catalog
Sarah Darer Littman

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review: “everlasting” July 13, 2010

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Everlasting by Angie Frazier.
Scholastic Press // ARC // 336 pages.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Traveling ARC Tours.

Camille Rowen has always been a shipman’s daughter, sailing with her father on his ships. But in 1855, a woman’s place is not on a ship — it’s with a husband and Camille is engaged. Allowing his daughter one last voyage before her wedding, Camille sets off towards Australia. But what awaits Camille is not what it seems – beyond her sights there are secrets, a mysterious curse, despair, and a different life than she ever imagined.

I don’t really read a lot of historical fiction, but I was willing to give this one a go when I heard that it had paranormal elements in the story. Largely, I would say that this is adventure-romance even more so than historical or paranormal though.

Camille was a narrator struggling between duty and what she really wanted. I think a lot of teens can relate to that struggle and will be able to identify with the narrator. As an adult, I thought that the answer to Camille’s struggle was a little obvious and there were times that I just wanted to shake the girl. But – I did keep in mind that Camille wasn’t a modern girl and that she had more social implications to address than a girl today would have.

My biggest issue with the book was that I didn’t feel enough tension throughout the plotline. I was interested enough to keep reading, but I expected to feel worried for the character’s safety, especially after Frazier shows us (through a character’s death) that her world is dangerous and isn’t safe. But I didn’t feel like Camille or her companions were really facing their deaths.

Overall, I did enjoy the book. I know this will work well with younger teens and tweens – I can imagine them re-reading this several times. I know I would have back in the day!

Amazon
IndieBound
SWAN catalog
Angie Frazier

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review: “flash burnout” April 19, 2010

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Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan.
Houghton Mifflin // Hardcover // 336 pages.
Reviewed from library copy.

Blake was just doing his photography homework. He didn’t expect to find anything other than a cool subject for a photo shoot. But when he finds Marissa’s drug-addict mother, his — and her — world change. Now, he’s torn between helping Marissa and his girlfriend, Shannon. (Not to mention his conflicting feelings about both girls, his family, and the world around him.) Will he be able to put what’s really important first?

I was pleasantly surprised by “Flash Burnout.” I thought the voice was pretty authentic, and that Blake sounded a lot like some of my teen boys at the library. But what really impressed me about this debut was the heart of the story. Blake’s seemingly light tone and joke cracking had me thinking that the book would be a quick, light-hearted story. I was wrong — this book has real depth to it.

My favorite part of the story had to be Blake and his home life. I thought his mother, father, and brother were among the best, most well-developed families I have ever encountered in YA literature. And I think that the family was presented as a very relatable family — I think teens will find a lot of things in common with all of the characters.

There were some minor problems with teenage slang. (And yes, it drew me out of the story even though I’m surrounded by teenagers five days a week.) And this is a novel for older teens by far. But overall, I thought this was a very strong debut novel. While it wasn’t my favorite of the Morris Award nominees (a YALSA award for best debut author basically), I thought that it definitely deserved the win. It’s already in my library and I would absolutely recommend it for public libraries.

Amazon
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L.K. Madigan

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review: “boys, girls, and other hazardous materials” March 31, 2010

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Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman.
Putnam // Hardcover // 288 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

After a horrible eighth grade year, surrounded by frenemies and pressured to do what they want, Charlie Healey is certainly ready to make a fresh start at a new high school. But when she arrives at the school, she finds out that her past isn’t so easy to escape — there’s her childhood best friend Will, and Nidhi, one of the girls that the popular crowd tormented at her old school. And that’s not all that’s going on — Charlie’s got to figure out who her friends are and what exactly Will is hiding from her…before it blows up in her face.

I have mixed feelings on this one. I really liked its potential, but it didn’t really achieve it throughout the course of the story.

The first half of this novel is about Charlie and high school; typical freshmen issues — finding friends, joining clubs, classes, lockers. There’s little to no plot. And when Nidhi shows up, I thought, plot! But their differences are quickly gotten over and Nidhi becomes one of Charlie’s friends.

I was interested in Charlie’s life, and pleased to read a YA novel about freshman year. But the plot doesn’t really show up until more than midway through the novel when Charlie discovers that there’s more than meets the eye to the peer pressure and bullying around her.

And then, the plot moves quickly until the end of the novel, which does have a nice wrap-up, without leaving readers wondering what happens.

Charlie also annoyed me sometimes. I was frustrated when she started sounding like a mouthpiece for anti-bullying campaigns instead of a real teenager. (It didn’t happen often, but when it did — whoa.)

The supporting characters (Nidhi, Michael and Sydney) wound up being my favorites. And I did root for Charlie and Will to figure out that they needed to date, but only mildly.

Overall, this is a cute fun (slightly flawed) read that I know will find a place in YA literature. Public libraries would definitely benefit from having this in their collection.

Amazon
SWAN catalog
Rosalind Wiseman

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review: “an off year” March 30, 2010

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An Off Year by Claire Zulkey.
Dutton Juvenile // Hardcover // 304 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Cecily had a plan — after graduating high school, she was set for college. But when she arrived at college for her move-in day, her plans changed. Cecily didn’t want to be there. So, she moved back home for a year, planning on taking a year off to figure out exactly what she wanted in life. The problem is she has no idea what she wants and no idea how to get it. For now, she’s content with sitting around.

This novel really surprised me with its honesty about one of the hardest transitions for teens — the transition from teenagedom to adulthood. And I think this is an area of YA that is just beginning to be explored; one that needs to be explored further.

I also thought that the novel might get to be a little boring if all Cecily was doing was waiting to figure things out. But outside influences in her life (her family, her friends, a therapist) really to the story, making it well rounded and not a completely internal dialogue.

I really connected with Cecily as a character. I feel like everyone has that moment in their lives when they look as the expected path laid out for them and wonder why they’re doing what they’re doing. I didn’t take any years off between high school, college, and graduate school — sometimes I really wish I had!

And it has to be mentioned — the novel takes place in Chicago and I still get a thrill out of reading books that are written in my hometown. Zulkey did a great job describing the area and I definitely felt like I was around the Rogers Park/Evanston area…even if the novel doesn’t come right out and say it.

Younger teens will probably be less interested in this title, but I definitely think this will work well with high school seniors/college freshmen.

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Claire Zulkey

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review: “bleeding violet” March 29, 2010

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Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves.
Simon Pulse // Hardcover // 464 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Hanna hasn’t had the easiest childhood — she’s never known her mother, her father just died, and she’s a manic depressive. So when she sets out to find the mother who abandoned her, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that her task isn’t as easy as it seems. Rosalee wants nothing to do with Hanna, but agrees to a challenge — if Hanna can fit into the town of Portero, she can stay. But in a town like Portero, it isn’t easy to fit in…even if you are normal.

I loved this book. I don’t know how this review is going to come across, but I suspect it will be just a ton of gushing with an occasional coherent thought.

Hanna is the very epitome of a unique character. She’s bi-racial — black and Finnish — which totally shocked me. (Being Finnish myself, I’ve never come across a YA Finn. Ever! I did a dance of joy and called my father up to pronounce Hanna’s last name for me correctly.) But what’s more is that Hanna is crazy. She speaks to her father. She calls upon a swan to help her out, she only wears purple dresses — and she is an amazingly narrator who sucks you in and refuses to spit you out.

The world that Reeves creates is this horrific, grotesque, complicated, well thought out concoction that literally had me in awe from the beginning of the novel. I don’t want to say much in terms of the specifics so that I don’t spoil the ride for anyone, but this is one of the most unique world builds that I’ve ever come across in YA.

That being said, this novel will not be everyone’s cup of tea. There’s a lot of violence, a lot of sex and sexuality, and it’s weird and it’s definitely a book that I would recommend to mature YAs. Some of my teens got it through the Simon Pulse program and they begged me to buy it for the library. I happily complied with their request.

Amazon
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Dia Reeves

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review: “scones and sensibility” March 28, 2010

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Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland.
EgmontUSA // Hardcover // 320 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Polly Madessa has fallen in love — with the works of Jane Austen and especially of “Pride and Prejudice.” After being inspired by the likes of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy, she sets out her summer speaking as her idols did, determined to find romance in everyday life. When Polly struggles to find what she’s looking for, she decides to create it by playing matchmaker for her older sister, her best friend’s father, and the local owner of a kite store. Farce and comedy ensue as Polly tries to make the perfect couples she read in books.

This was a very cute novel. At first, Polly’s use of archaic language grated on my nerves, but I was soon smiling at the charm of the novel. It reminded me very much of the style of books I read as a tween (Anne of Green Gables, Betsy-Tacy, Little Women), but with a modern twist.

The romance and couples were obvious to me, and I knew exactly where things were going to fall apart. But I was happy to accompany Polly on her journey as she learned that her matchmaking wasn’t as thought out as she had planned.

I was surprised that Polly’s family and friends didn’t give her a harder time about her language and her behavior. Especially during one incident that actually has the police getting involved because Polly wrongly assumes that someone is unattached when in fact they are in a relationship.

What I struggle with is who to sell this novel to. My tweens are very young, and I think the ones that would make age-wise to Polly would have difficulties with the language that she speaks in. This is definitely a book that has a very tight niche, and it might be hard to sell it to a tween.

On the other hand, it is quite enjoyable and I think it might work well as a mother-daughter book club read. I am definitely looking forward to what the author will write next.

Amazon
SWAN catalog
Lindsay Eland

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review: “by the time you read this, i’ll be dead” March 26, 2010

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By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters.
Hyperion // Hardcover // 224 pages.
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Daelyn Rice has tried to commit suicide multiple times. The latest attempt has left her unable to eat solid food and to talk without pain. And Daelyn still wants to die — so she finds an online community to support her during her next attempt; the attempt that Daelyn wants to be her final success. But as much as Daelyn wants to die, others want her to live and they’re reaching out to her, trying to keep her alive.

It’s hard to review this book for me. I thought it was amazingly well-written, but the whole time I wanted to shake Daelyn and remind her that people cared about her. I was so utterly frustrated with her character and the seemingly unending hopelessness that she had — I really struggled to finish the book.

There are also pretty detailed descriptions on the methods that people chose to commit suicide, something that I almost wasn’t comfortable with in a YA book. And I have to say that I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to difficult subjects in YA literature. But when the descriptions were making my stomach turn? It was too harsh for me, and too harsh for a lot of the teens I know.

Daelyn does has reason for being truly unhappy — she’s been bullied her whole life for her weight. I don’t want to say it justified her depression and suicide attempts, but I felt like she had been truly abused.

[Spoilers for the end, run away if you don’t want to know!]

And the most frustrating part about the novel was that the ending was open — we don’t know what Daelyn did; if she did attempt suicide, if she was successful; or if the few people in her life were enough to convince her otherwise.

A hard-hitting well-written YA novel. I had trouble moving past the subject matter. And I think librarians should be careful to recommend it to teens who can handle the material.

Amazon
SWAN catalog
Julie Anne Peters

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