Showing posts from December, 2014

Belzhar - Meg Wolitzer

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.
(Description courtesy of Goodreads)
Wolitzer's book is a mixed bag for me. I love many elements of the novel and found the concept to be quite intriguing. But there were also elements that felt disjointed, and the ending reveal left me feeling less than satisfied. I felt myself connecting to the secondary characters…

"Shouldn't You Be in School?" - Lemony Snicket

Let me make one thing clear, here. This is not a review of Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler). This is not a review of Handler's presentation at the NBA banquet. This is a review of his book. A book, it should be said, that I found enchanting, a word which here means, "I really, really, liked the novel!" So, without further ado, here is my review of the penultimate novel in this particular quadrilogy. Do you smell smoke? Young apprentice Lemony Snicket is investigating a case of arson but soon finds himself enveloped in the ever-increasing mystery that haunts the town of Stain'd-by-the-Sea. Who is setting the fires? What secrets are hidden in the Department of Education? Why are so many schoolchildren in danger? Is it all the work of the notorious villain Hangfire? How could you even ask that? What kind of education have you had? (Description courtesy of Goodreads)As usual, Snicket's descriptive abilities continue to impress me, as does his ability to weave a mul…

The Scar Boys - Len Vlahos

In attempting to describe himself in his college application essay--help us to become acquainted with you beyond your courses, grades, and test scores--Harbinger (Harry) Jones goes way beyond the 250-word limit and gives a full account of his life.

The first defining moment: the day the neighborhood goons tied him to a tree during a lightning storm when he was 8 years old, and the tree was struck and caught fire. Harry was badly burned and has had to live with the physical and emotional scars, reactions from strangers, bullying, and loneliness that instantly became his everyday reality.

The second defining moment: the day in 8th grade when the handsome, charismatic Johnny rescued him from the bullies and then made the startling suggestion that they start a band together. 
Harry's description of his life in his essay is both humorous and heart-wrenching. (Description courtesy of Goodreads)

I wasn't sure what to expect with this book. I saw the cover on the shortlist for the Morri…

The Darkest Part of the Forest - Holly Black

As today's review is of a book coming out in 2015, I have asked a fantastic friend of mine to write his own review. So without further ado, here's Dylan Schroeder's write-up of Holly Black's upcoming novel, The Darkest Part of the Forest!

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.
The Darkest Part of the Forest marks Holly Black’s return to the faerie genre and you can rest easy knowing that it is a triumphant one. I’ve been a big fan of Holly Black for a long time now, I’ve read all of her YA novels and I have to say that this is probably my personal favourite.
It’s the story of twins Hazel and Ben, who live in the little town of Fairfold, which happens to be nestled right next to a forest filled with faeries. The people of the town trea…

Courage for Beginners - Karen Harrington

It's always difficult to read a second novel from somebody that you so greatly admire. I love Harrington's first novel for young readers, Sure Signs of Crazy. It's dark, deep, and beautiful, and still manages to contain moments of humour in the face of tragedy. But this isn't a review of that first book for young readers. This is a review of Courage for Beginners.
I don't know much, but I do know people stop to look at unusual things. People slow down to look at car accidents. People pull out their cameras to snap pictures of orange sunsets. People lie on the grass in the dark if a news reporter says you might spot a meteor shower after midnight. ... In school I learned that if you are really quiet, people will think you are smart. This is another trick. I'm not smart. I just can't stop thinking. I sit here motionless and still. Thinking. There is nothing else to do. While I must begin by saying that I still like Sure Signs of Crazy the most, I very much enj…

Miss Hazeltine's Home for Shy and Fearful Cats - Alicia Potter & Birgitta Sif

I know it's early, BUT I really have almost nothing else to write reviews for right now! I hope you will all read this review, get excited, and eagerly await the book's release!

Miss Hazeltine has plenty of kitty company, and she gives her beloved scaredy-cats lessons in everything from Bird Basics to How Not to Fear the Broom.

The most timid of all is Crumb. He cowers in a corner. Miss Hazeltine doesn't mind. But when she gets in trouble and only Crumb knows where she is, will he find his inner courage and lead a daring rescue?

Sounds fabulous, doesn't it? I mean, considering we live in an age when cat videos rule the interwebz and kitty memes have taken over Facebook, this book will likely find many audiences, from the very young to the much more... uh, mature! Potter and Sif's fabulous picturebook will entice children through its charming illustrations and engaging text. 

Miss Hazeltine's is a book that will comfort the shy and the fearful, but without being ove…

What's New

Okay, so maybe this post is a little bit like cheating. I just got back from a conference, and in the meantime have had no chance to read anything as exam grading is taking up every free moment right now. So, in lieu of a review (I rhymed!), I will post some links to really awesome Top Books lists and links to what other people think will be the most amazing books of next year. I'm not allowed to post my own upcoming favourites for 2015 due to a current committee appointment, but don't you worry, I'm working to get some guest bloggers to help me out in the New Year!

So, here goes...

The Boston Globe's Best Young Adult Books of 2014 (most of which have appeared on my Top 14 of 2014 lists! Here's the first and second list, if you want to go back and look.)

The Guardian also put out a Best Children's Books of 2014 list, which is fun to look at because a number have not shown up on American lists.

And of course, Kirkus and Publishers Weeklyeach put out their respective…

Problem Novels and Contemporary Realistic YA

Dear YA Readers:

I'm not going to begin by dissing problem novels. I have read many good ones, and I believe they have a purpose. I do, however, believe that problem novels should only be a portion of what is out there for teens to read, and I am feeling as though the problem novel is making a comeback in terms of new representations of differing queer genders and sexualities. I've come across a number of novels recently, about bisexuality, intersex and trans teens, and other such emerging identities, but I've noticed there always seems to be the obligatory scene of violence against the other. Similar to early gay YA where the protagonist or secondary character either gets ill or beat up, or dies, many of these newer books feature a character who ends up being injured in the process of coming out or upon their gender/sexual identity being discovered by peers.

While I understand that authors seem to be including these instances of violence in order to lend a sense of realism …

My True Love Gave to Me - Stephanie Perkins (Ed.)

This book was birthed over creme brulee lattes in Charleston, South Carolina.... (Acknowledgments)

Like most short story collections, everyone will find different stories to love and everyone will find other stories less suited to their tastes. That being said, I did not end up finding actually disappointed with any stories in particular. There were some that I liked more than others, but that has more to do with personal taste, I feel, than anything to do with writing style or ability.

This is a really great collection of holiday themed stories, each of which takes a unique spin on what readers might expect. There are stories of simple romance and there are stories filled with magic; there are stories that revolve around every day holiday activities, and others that revolve around the supernatural.

Rainbow Rowell's "Midnights" is the story of a girl and a boy who are trying to figure out how to tell each other how they feel, over a number of New Years Eve parties, is lovel…