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Showing posts from February, 2014

House of Purple Cedar - Tim Tingle

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Have you read How I Became a Ghost? Well, you'd better get on that!! It's wonderful, the work of a true storyteller.

But moving on, The House of Purple Cedar came out just recently (February 18, 2014), and really, whether or not you've read How I Became a Ghost, this is a book worth noting, not only for its fantastic representation of Native Americans and strong characterization overall, but because it is a beautifully structured story that is built around historical events that Tingle took the time (hehe... it's an alliteration!) to fully research. It's even endorsed by Debbie Reese (and when it comes to Native American literature for young people, that's a big deal!) Here's what she had to say:
"WOW! I'm gonna say that again... WOW. Tim Tingle's HOUSE OF PURPLE CEDAR is amazing! His storytelling voice rings out as I read about the Choctaw people of the late 1800s... And the stories that voice is telling? Stories we should all know. History we s…

Grasshopper Jungle - Andrew Smith

This isn't a review. This is a video to show you a brief glimpse into an incredible book. I wanted to review it, but it's been done by all the big reviewers already, and I can't possibly say anything better to convince you to read it. So this is my only contribution: READ IT NOW!


Half Bad - Sally Green

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 The trick is to not mind. Not mind about it hurting, not mind about anything.
     The trick of not minding is key; it's the only trick in town. Only this is not a town; it's a cage beside a cottage, surrounded by a load of hills and trees and sky.
     It's a one trick cage. 
I admit to being slightly apprehensive about the book due to the opening chapters being in the second person, though it does do a remarkable job of making the reader experience the pain and longing of our trapped and abused protagonist, Nathan.

     You wait until she appears and throws you the keys. You catch the keys, unlock your ankles, rub them to emphasize the pain she is inflicting, unlock the cage door, toss the keys back to her, open the cage door, step out—keeping your head down, never look her in the eyes....

But as apprehensive as I was at first, I couldn't help but get drawn into the story. I was left with a gnawing desire to know how he ended up in this cage, how he plans to escape, whe…

The Art of Secrets - James Klise

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I read this book in one morning, and my first reaction after closing the book was a rather simple, but fully heartfelt "Wow!" From the author of Love Drugged, comes this truly unique and fascinating mystery novel, full of tension, excitement, anticipation, and secrecy.

When Saba Khan's family loses their apartment due to a mysterious fire, the community in which they live rallies around them, though it is unclear if all of their motives are pure. While an auction is being organized at Highsmith school, a bizarre piece of art shows up on the scene, worth over half a million dollars. In the aftermath of the discovery, everyone begins to change and fall prey to greed, jealousy, suspicion, and a spate of possibly false accusations.

Klise uses a brilliant series of unreliable narrators to tell the story, working to keep the suspense high for the entirety of the novel. Each character seems to have an answer for the theft of the paintings and for the reason behind the fire at the…

Fan Art - Sarah Tregay

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Sarah Tregay's Fan Art is a satisfying read for teens, both queer and not. 

This contemporary romance follows Jamie Peterson, a boy getting swept up in prom fever, and he has a problem. Jamie doesn't have a date! But Jamie also has another problem, he's in love with his best friend, and he doesn't necessarily want to admit it. Not to anyone. But a lot of his peers seem to know how he feels about Mason whether he wants them to or not. I love this quote from the cover synopsis: "Love is easy, except when it's not...."

Jamie and Mason have a complex relationship that I feel Tregay manages to explore with a lot of feeling and honesty. I think these sorts of stories (with one person in love with a friend) are so important, because they test the limits of friendship, love, acceptance, truth, and the ability to be honest with those who matter in life. 
[E]veryone knows friend crushes are the worst—even guy-girl friend crushes—drama, angst, broken hearts, you name i…

Guardian - Alex London

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NOTE: This book is a sequel and as such requires knowledge of characters and events from the first in the series, Proxy. Also, this may mean certain parts of this review could be seen as spoilers. You've been warned!

Guardian starts in almost immediately after Proxy ends; Syd has become the symbol of a revolution, led by the Rebooters, and as he struggles to be the figurehead the leaders want him to be (I'm not supposed to be anyone's inspiration. I'm a fake), his instincts toward rebellion keep his bodyguard, Liam, very busy protecting him from the Machinists who want to see him dead. On top of this, the reboot of the system has caused the Guardians to become disease-ridden, empty shells of their former selves. Now labelled nonoperatives (or "nopes"), they are routinely killed off and regarded as non-human trash. 
[T]hese nopes weren't just deaf and dumb; they looked like the stuff of nightmares. The black veins bulged; their cheeks were streaked with bloo…

Stay Where You Are & then Leave - John Boyne

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I read one of Boyne's earlier books, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas a long time ago, and then read The Boy Who Swam With Piranhas. This book is definitely closer to Striped Pyjamas, just in case you were wondering.

Young Alfie Summerfield lives with his mother, a busy nurse working during the beginning of WWI. His father has gone away to fight and so Alfie feels that he must become the man of the house, both my helping his mother around their home, but also by bringing in a source of income. And so he sets out to become a shoe shine boy at King's Cross Station. But while shining a man's shoes one day, Alfie comes across some information about his father who is now living not too far away, being treated for an unusual condition. Filled with a mixture of courage, fear, and apprehension, Alfie decides he must find a way to rescue his father and put his home back together.

The book has a meandering feel, and I don't mean this in a negative way, but the beginning takes some t…

Side Effects May Vary - Julie Murphy

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Alice is diagnosed with leukaemia. She is devastated. And so is her family. And Harvey. She asks Harvey, who she knows is in love with her, to help her fulfill some bucket-list items before her time runs out, but Harvey begins to question her motives. When Alice finds out that she is in remission, she is suddenly left wondering what to do with the life she had already said goodbye to, and she now has to face the consequences of a number of her previous action.

Julie Murphy's Side Effects May Vary is at once as rich, beautiful, and complex, as it is sad and disturbing. The story is told through the alternating voices of Alice and Harvey, from "then" and "now," allowing readers to piece together their fractured lives and experiences, one bit at a time.
We were so different. Harvey wanted good. He wanted to leave the ones he loved in a good place. I'd just wanted the last word.Alice is a bitch. She says so herself! ("Karma was a bitch, but so was I.") …

The Here and Now - Anne Brashares

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The Here and Now tells the story of a young woman from the future who is trying to reconcile her knowledge of the future with what is happening in her new present, much to the chagrin of the leaders of the Community. There are a number of rules that must be followed by those who have travelled back, and Prenna, though she doesn't agree with all the rules, is relatively adherent... until she meets Ethan Jarves.
We begin with a flashback and then move to the present, never actually seeing into the future except through brief glimpses in the form of dialogue from our heroine. The future looks grim (don't worry, I won't give it all away!), but Prenna's present isn't looking so great either, living under the thumb of the people in charge of her Community.
The novel feels like it's trying to teach me a lesson. Some of the environmental messages come across as overly heavy-handed and would improve with more nuanced reflection and narrative style. Instead the reader is l…

Guy in Real Life - Steve Brezenoff

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This is a fun a fascinating examination of life, love, living online, and (to a smaller degree) LARPing. The alternating chapters give readers a chance to catch a glimpse of each character, including the MMORPG characters. Being able to experience the online world in such great depth, as something more than just a description from our characters In Real Life, sets this book apart from many that explore gaming and living dual lives. Similar in tone (at times) to that brilliant web series The Guild, this novel will enamour readers with the thrills and pitfalls of living multiple lives.

The writing style, as I said before, is skillfully split so that each character is able to express his/her/their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences, but readers are still left wondering about different aspects of the story, unlike with an omniscient, third person narrator. Each voice is unique and gives insight into living in different class, gender, and social systems. For example, the lovely Svetlan…

Hollow City - Ransom Riggs

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If you haven't read the first book in Ransom Riggs' series of Peculiar Children novels, then you simply must GET ON THAT!

In all seriousness, though, this series is incredibly inventive and, well, peculiar. Riggs's narrative is beautiful and haunting on its own, but paired with the historical, eerie, fantastical photos, his novels make for an impressive overall story arc that will linger in the minds of readers for a long time after the final sentence. Of course, the worst part is waiting for the next in the series (so, Mr. Riggs, if you could just send me what you've got so far, that would be great...)

In this sequel, Jacob and the other Peculiar children must find Miss Wren, one of the last remaining ymbryne, in order to find a cure for Miss Peregrine, who has been stuck in bird form for days already. The group navigates 1940s England, along with other time loops, in an effort to track down the elusive Miss Wren, and avoid all the wights and hollows along the way. Thro…

Random - Tom Leveen

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One evening, the night before her trial, Tori receives a phone call from an unknown number. At first, she thinks it's just another crank caller getting ready to call her names and cuss her out before the trial. She's about to hang up on the unknown caller, but then, after he tells her he just dialed a number at random, hoping to talk to someone, she asks:
     "Why'd you call this number allegedly at random?" There's that word again. Allegedly. Maybe if I repeat it enough times, it'll lose its meaning.
     I hear the mystery caller take and release a deep breath.
     "Honestly?" he says.
     "Yeah, honestly."
     "Well, honestly . . . because I'm going to kill myself."The mysterious caller wants Tori to talk him through the night, to give him a reason not to kill himself. While talking on the phone all night, Tori also has to confront her own actions in the death of a young man at her school, whose actions have been attrib…