Thursday, August 26, 2010

Justin Fisher Declares War

Justin Fisher Declares War
by James Preller

In third grade, Justin slipped and fell in the cafetorium, dumping spaghetti all over himself.  At that moment, he knew he had a choice to make: be embarrassed and slink off to be laughed at OR turn it into a joke and make himself the class clown.
He's not wearing the costume, but two years later and he's still clowning around.  Or, at least he thinks he is.

After two years of constantly trying to top himself in the funny department, he's gone too far the other way and now he's become the jerk of the school.  And when his newest teacher refuses to put up with it, Justin declares war, even if the teacher doesn't know it yet.

Now Justin must figure out how to become the funniest clown on campus without losing the few friends he has left and getting suspended in the process.

Final thoughts:  It's a simple, quick read that's a good story, especially for kids who seem to have a problem understanding the difference between things that are funny and things that are hurtful.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman

Nobody Owens does not exist in the same world as everyone else.  He's in that in-between.  He's human, raised by ghosts in a graveyard and he can do many of the things that ghosts can do.

He can fade to invisibility, inspire fear, and walk dreams.

He can also get into trouble, have problems with his homework, get kidnapped by ghouls, and get rescued by werewolves.  So he's still just like any normal boy.

And he's in danger.

His parents were murdered because of him and their murderer is trying to find him to finish the job.

Final thoughts:  Starting out at the scene of a triple murder can be a jolting way to start a book that ended up being the Hugo Award and Newbery Award winner for 2009.  Bod's story is well-told and fascinating.  I find myself worried about him as he heads off into the world, but also sure that he will make the most out of life, especially since he's spent so much time around death.

Rating: 5/5


by Suzanne Collins

When Katniss and Peeta threatened to eat the poisonous berries at the end of the 74th Annual Hunger Games, thereby forcing the Capitol to hastily change its own rules, they unknowingly threw themselves and all of Panem into a revolution.

Now, less than a year later, and after the Quarter Quell, which forced Katniss, Peeta, and other victors to relive the Hunger Games in all its gory details, Katniss is the Mockingjay: the figurehead for the fight being led by District 13, which had been thought to have been completely obliterated 75 years before.

With Peeta captured, District 12 in ruins, and physical, mental, and emotional trauma, Katniss must somehow find her own strength and help lead the revolutionaries back to the Capitol for the final battle.

And no matter how many troops surround her or where she goes to hide, it's obvious that people are after her, her family, and everyone she cares about.  Can she save everyone she loves without dying in the process?

Final thoughts:  Wow.  Really... Wow.  For those who thought Stephenie Meyer had just too much of a happy ending where everyone's futures were rosy in Breaking Dawn, this book will satisfy.  The final book in the trilogy is not happy.  It's not a feel-good book.  This will NOT make you smile with satisfaction that everyone got what they deserved in the end.  While technically sci-fi, this is a completely realistic final chapter that will leave people in shock and awe that Collins would so brazenly do what she did.

Rating: 5/5

Friday, August 20, 2010


by Amanda Marrone

It's been months since Jordan's ex-boyfriend's funeral and Jordan still can't get him off her mind.

Of course, that may be because he still comes to visit her each night, sitting in the tree by her window, begging for her to invite him in so that they can be together.

The undead are just stalkery that way.

So now Jordan is trapped in her own home from sunset to sunrise.  She lays on her bed, gets drunk, and listens to her vampire-ex all night long as he tries new ways to get her to open the window and let him in.

But things are finally coming to a point where Jordan's going to have to make a choice.  Break up with him and make it stick this time... or open the window and let him in.

Final thoughts:  Marrone's books are OK.  That's about it.  They are bits of fluff.  I think the reason I keep picking them up is the covers and the blurbs.  They always look and sound more exciting than they really are.  In this one, the author keeps having Jordan think/say things like she's got issues with crowds, shyness, people staring at her, but then she's also supposed to be hard-core into drinking, recreational drugs, and sleeping around.  But no matter how much Jordan tells you she's these things, it's impossible to believe.  Not credible at all.

Rating: 2/5

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


by Amanda Marrone

Jules and her friends have been killing supernatural creatures since they were thirteen.  Now, as they near their eighteenth birthdays, they are finally becoming full members of the coven and being told the secrets that have been handed down for 300 years.
Unfortunately, some secrets are better left unsaid.  And things in the coven aren't as safe as the young witches thought they were.

The good work they've been doing night after night over the last years may not have been what they believed.

Now, as the secrets are being revealed to each girl on her birthday, the realization comes that there has to be a change.

And as the youngest and last to know, Jules is also the only person who may be able to stop it all.

Final thoughts: The book itself wasn't so bad.  It's cult-y paperback at best.  My main complaint actually has more to do with the current trend in the supernatural genre.  Author/book bashing.  Marrone's books may never have gotten published if it wasn't for a certain 100-year-old vamp and his true love in the rainiest town, yet here is another book that mocks that story and its sequels.  Really?  There seem to be quite a few vamp novels out there that mention Meyer by name and mock her books, while also being published simply because the public hungers for more vamp novels.  The bite-the-hand-that-made-your-career-possible angle is a little annoying.  I know Meyer isn't the best author out there, but give it a rest, already.

Rating: 2/5

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Kiss in Time

A Kiss in Time
by Alex Flinn

Talia was always told to stay away from spindles.  All of the spindles in Euphrasia had been destroyed shortly after the curse of the witch Malvolia.  But anyone who's read the tale of Sleeping Beauty knows that you can't escape destiny... 

So, just hours before her sixteenth birthday, Talia finally escapes her constant, 24/7 escorts and finds the only spindle for miles around.  Though hardly her fault (destiny, remember!?!  and the fact that she'd never seen a spindle before), her father blames her after she's awakened 300 years later by a commoner who stumbled through the giant thorny hedges surrounding the kingdom.

Instead of being the obedient girl she's always been, she runs off with Jack, her "true love", whether he wants her around or not, and the two begin the trip back to his life in Miami.  
But things are never that easy.

Jack has problems relating to his family almost as Talia has problems with her's.  And Malvolia doesn't accept the terms of this awakening, especially since Jack and Talia don't much like each other, let alone love each other enough to satisfy the curse.

Now Talia must find a way to fall in love with Jack and get him to love her back before Malvolia finds her with another spindle.

Final thoughts:  I loved Beastly, but this was just too much of a stretch.  Where Beastly had a solid story and believable characters going for it, this was just a shoddy attempt to re-do the formula of the modern-day retelling.  It's too bad because I really was rooting for this one to work out.

Rating: 2/5

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Justin Case : School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters

Justin Case : 
School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters
by Rachel Vail

Third grade is starting and Justin is very nervous about it.

Of course, Justin is nervous about pretty much everything: dogs, the boiler, the Way-Back of the basement, nighttime attackers, teachers, classmates, the principal's office, saying something stupid, reading out loud, times tables... 

It doesn't help that Justin's first day of school is ruined when he's pulled from the class with the nice teacher and all of his friends and put into a completely different class with the scary kids.  It doesn't help that he's got an almost unpronounceable last name, which the other kids change to "Case" as in "Just-in-Case".  It doesn't help that his many stuffed animals are staging a revolution on his bed.  It doesn't help that his sister, who is going into kindergarten, is much braver than he.  It doesn't help that his dad keeps signing him up for sports when he's not athletic and his mom signs him up for violin, which he can't play.  And it doesn't help that his favorite stuffed animal has gone missing.

All these things and many more stress him out to exhaustion.  And now his only real goal is to survive third grade.

But is it possible when everything is so very scary?

Final thoughts:  I love the format of the daily journal and the author has some clever things going.  (i.e. Justin's supposed to say "No, thank you" instead of "hate" whenever he's offered something he doesn't want, so for the remainder of the book he "No, thank you's" everything like math, gym, climbing ropes, etc...).  Now, I'm interested to see how Justin gets through fourth grade.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Some Girls Bite

Some Girls Bite
by Chloe Neill

Merit had it all planned out.  She was going to finish her graduate dissertation and then teach romantic medieval literature.  She would eventually find the perfect guy and she would stay away from her jerk of a father as often as possible.  It was a good plan.
But plans change.

Plans change when she walks across the campus at night and is attacked by one vampire, then "saved" by another.  If forcing her to become a vampire herself can be called saving.

So now she's a creature of the night.  

But it's not so bad.  She still eats regular food, hangs out with friends, and gets some free time.  It's just that pesky need for blood every few days that's the real problem.  And the allergy to sunlight.  And the Master of the House that she is supposed to swear an oath to within the week.  (She's supposed to call him "Liege"!!  How medieval can you get!)  

There are some bonuses.  Extra strength and agility, the right to carry a sword around, super healing, and the Master of the House that she is supposed to swear an oath to within the week. (Did I mention that he's super hot and really really really likes Merit?)

Things are never simple, especially for Merit.  And especially not when there's a vampire murdering girls who look a lot like Merit and then planting evidence about all of the vampire houses in Chicago.

Nope.  This vampire thing ain't easy.

Final thoughts:  I'm normally a YA girl, but a few of the blogs I follow promoted the Chicagoland Vampires series, so I figured I'd give it a try.  Totally worth it.  Merit is believable (as believable as a vampire can be) and funny.  Her friends are awesome.  And her family has both good and bad.  The romantic tension between Merit and her many admirers is almost palpable.  Well worth the read.

Rating: 5/5


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